Quantcast

Review: Neil Young delivers heartfelt 'A Letter Home'

Published May 22, 2014 3:18 pm

New release • Neil Young, "A Letter Home" (Reprise).
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Neil Young's sporadic concept records aren't for everyone. "A Letter Home" should be.

While still an esoteric venture — Young recorded it in a refurbished 1947 Voice-O-Graph — the songs he chose are familiar ones, making this more accessible than previous out-in-left-field Young releases.

Among the songs: Bob Dylan's "Girl From the North Country," Bruce Springsteen's "My Home Town," Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" and "Crazy," and Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain." They are a reflection of Young's roots and musical backbone, made all the more clear by the heartfelt and intimate delivery.

Now, back to the box.

Young, 68, was captivated by the Voice-O-Graph that Jack White had restored and made available at his recording studio in Nashville. Young decided to cram himself into the phone booth-size contraption — typically used by amateurs to record one song at a time, which is immediately laid down on vinyl — and record an entire record.

The songs sound as if they came from another age, complete with scratches, pops and imperfections usually only heard on old vinyl records. Adding to the idiosyncratic approach, Young fashioned the entire record as a letter home to his deceased mother, delivering her a playlist of some of his favorite tunes.

It's clear these songs are a part of Young's musical DNA, and it's almost as if the listener is being invited into his living room for a private concert — delivered from inside a phone booth, of course.