“A Letter Home” is the title of the new album by Neil Young, released a few months ago and produced by Third Man Records in Nashville. The album has at least two elements on which I wish to reflect. The first is the way in which it was recorded. The second is the content. Let’s start with the latter. The Canadian singer-songwriter, very active both in terms of musical innovation that record production – recently launched on the market Pono, a portable music files in high definition – probably wanted to close a circle that had begun to walk in 2010, year in which he published “Le Noise”. The album, produced by Daniel Lanois – who in his long career he has worked with, among others, Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel, U2, Robbie Robertson and Emmylou Harris – is very nice from the point of view of production (it has been recorded by Mark Howard, an engineer who has worked with Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Willie Nelson, Marianne Faithfull, Emmylou Harris, REM). But it is composed of eight songs sung and played on guitar by only Young. “A Letter Home” follows the same formula, but stood on an atmosphere decidedly “roots” and “rough”. First, because – unlike the other, which impressed us especially for electric and powerful guitar that sustains voice – is played with only acoustic guitar (except “On the road again” and “I wonder if I care as much,” in which Jack White plays the piano), which accompanies the dreamy and sour Neil Young chant in a succession of thirteen tracks. Then why the eleven tracks (two are Young’s “talking” modulus) are covers of folk-rock singer-songwriters of the international scene: Bob Dylan, Bert Jansch, Gordon Lightfoot, Willie Nelson, Tim Hardin, Gordon Lightfoot, Ivory Joe Hunter, Bruce Springsteen, the Everly Brothers and Phil Ochs. Finally, because – and here we touch on another point above – “A Letter Home” has been recorded in a recording booth for vinyl. It is a real cabin, present in the Jack White’s Third Man Records, thanks to which you can record and print your own vinyl. Needless to say, the result takes the form of the “crude” product but, precisely because of this, is configured as a “snapshot” of a performance, whose symbolic and artistic value probably lies in the absence of traditional production, and thus, the addition of elements for improvement. The result is certainly convincing: Young has a voice that can captivate even the most skeptical, and even when it passes over a so thin and rough base, his warmth and charm remain intact.
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