album review | americana

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, ‘Americana’

When veteran rockers get restless, one of two things can happen: “Lulu” or “Americana.” The former is Lou Reed’s abysmal collaboration with Metallica; the latter is Neil Young’s charming reunion with Crazy Horse. For the first time in eight years, Young rallied bassist Billy Talbot, guitarist Poncho Sampedro, and drummer Ralph Molina — to explore American folk tales. Yet this tangle of fuzzed-out guitars, stuttering bass lines, and clattering drums is no folk record, but rock ’n’ roll at its most primitive, plunging old songs deeper into a primordial sonic stew. Kindergartners would be scared witless if they were taught to sing “Oh Susannah” in the wobbly psychedelic way Young and Crazy Horse do it. But “Americana” is not weird for weird’s sake. Young reignites melodies and lyrics sadly frozen through years of rote recitation. “Clementine” seethes with sinister undertones. “Tom Dula” sounds like a prequel to Young’s own dread-inducing “Down by the River.” And Canadian expat Young summons populist pride with an unexpurgated “This Land Is Your Land.” (Out Tuesday) SCOTT McLENNAN

ESSENTIAL “Clementine”

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