During the early ’70s in the golden age of Neil Young’s career, he released albums like Harvest and After the Gold Rush that came to define his trademark sound. He laid the framework for grunge and released socially conscious songs like “Southern Man” that became the “Strange Fruit” of his generation. While Young’s new album, Prairie Wind, is a retreat to the sound that made him one of the most influential rock artists of all time, the content is that of an old and tired man. In “It’s A Dream,” he sings,” I try to ignore what the paper says / And try not to read all the news.” His priorities on the songs off Prairie Wind are what you’d expect of a man who recently recovered from a brain aneurism: family and childhood memories.
Neil Young touchingly writes in the liner notes that his album is “For Daddy;” this childlike yearning pervades the album. On title track “Prairie Wind,” Young sings, “Trying to remember what my Daddy said / Before too much time took away his head / He said we’re goin’ back and I’ll show you what I’m talking about / Going back to Cypress River, Back to the old farm house.” The combination of Young’s classic moaning guitar and harmonica with the lonesome sound of the steel guitar gives the songs an emotional twang that allows one to see inside Young’s exposed soul.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
One treat on this album is the touching backup vocals of folk legend Emmylou Harris. The addition of a female voice alongside a string section pleasantly complements the high strains of Young’s voice and gives a beautiful background to his laments.
When Young sang, “I’m getting old” 33 years ago on Harvest’s “Heart of Gold,” it was a far cry from the now more relevant realization that “We’re losing time” on Prairie Wind. While Young may seem drained, his musicianship hasn’t declined. He still sings with the same vigor and emotion that gave him the title of “godfather of grunge” decades ago. Prairie Wind is a pleasant reminder of a wonderful era to the old fans those who grew up listening to Neil Young. While he appealed to the concerns of this generation years ago, he now allows his loyal fanbase to appreciate the time they have and cherish their memories.