Neil Young's Peace Trail: What You Need To Know
A brief examination of Neil Young's discography over the last four decades should be enough to tell you how uniquely varied his output can be; from the acoustic marvels of Harvest, through the icy and often baffling Trans, to the blues-fuelled rock of Ragged Glory; every new album by Neil Young offers something a little different from the last.
For the last couple of years, the veteran troubadour has been busying himself with Promise of the Real, the band featuring Willie Nelson's sons Lukas and Micha, but this week sees the arrival of Peace Trail, Young's 37th studio album released under his own name. It arrives in stores today (you can preview and purchase the new album on the right-hand side of this page), here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Most of 2015 and 2016 have been spent on tour with his latest backing band Promise of the Real, releasing two albums with the group in that time, The Monsanto Years and Earth, the latter straddling the hitherto uncharted ground between live album and relaxation tape featuring sounds from the natural world.
Whether or not Peace Trail was intended as an antidote to all that touring and rocking out, we can't say for sure, but this is a largely acoustic album recorded earlier this year with a minimal band line-up comprising bass player Paul Bushnell, recruited via POTR bandmate Micha Nelson, and drummer Jim Keltner, a man perhaps best-known by his alias Buster Sidebury, the sticksman for supergroup The Travelling Wilburys alongside George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.
Who's producing it?
The album was recorded over just four days in Rick Rubin's Shangri-La Studios, although the production is actually being handled by Young himself and the album's recording engineer John Hanlon.
Any special guests?
Nope, just 10 new tracks of pure, unadulterated Neil Young.
What does it sound like?
The acoustic vibe is present throughout and there's a very immediate, almost ramshackle feel to Peace Trail, which tallies with Bushnell's assertion that each track was nailed on the first or second take. Within that basic framework however there are a variety of styles, from the shuffling groove of 'Show Me', through the trademark fizzing guitars of the title track, to the almost spoken word confessional of 'My Pledge'.
In some ways Peace Trail is reminiscent of some of Young's early, post-Buffalo Springfield solo work like Harvest and On The Beach, but his lyrics have a more political bent these days and there's much less focus on production values this time around, giving the whole album a rough and ready feel.
Does it deliver?
Whether or not Peace Trail will hit the spot with his fans really depends on what you want from a Neil Young record. His output over the years has been so varied that it's surely impossible to please everybody all of the time. If you loved Harvest, chances are you will have felt a little more ambivalent towards Trans. If you loved Trans, it's likely that its follow-up Everybody's Rockin' would have left you downright baffled.
Peace Trail is unlike any of those albums, instead offering a version of Neil Young at his most raw and primitive, his lyrics front-and-centre in one of his most lo-fi recordings yet. If that sounds like the Neil Young you fell in love with, then Peace Trail will be right up your street. If it doesn't, then don't worry – Young shows no signs of quitting and his next album will almost certainly be something totally different.