Neil Young recorded his 41st album—and 12th with longtime backing band Crazy Horse—at a restored barn high in the Colorado Rockies. “Made it just like it was in the old drawings and photographs,” he tells Apple Music. “It used to be a stage stop, so you’d see these pictures with the carriages and the horses and the ladies with their big dresses with the metal ring and everything.”
The songs here are succinct, the sound folksy and (relatively) subdued: Harvest without the strings, or Homegrown without the drugs. The band is as powerful and primal as they were in the ’70s (“Heading West”), but their politics are sharper (“Change Ain’t Never Gonna”), and their tenderness more tender (“Don’t Forget Love”). And if the hushed volatility of the eight-and-a-half-minute “Welcome Back” doesn’t convince you that they think of their music as being just as nuanced and transitory as jazz, nothing will. As drummer Ralph Molina put it when the take was done, “Neil just did some heavy shit.” So they kept it.
But it is amazing that it took them more than 50 years to record an album called Barn, if only because the music they’ve made feels so true to its title: simple, stoic, durable, timeless. Describing the recording process here, Young says he scheduled sessions so that he and the band—Molina, Billy Talbot, and longtime accomplice Nils Lofgren replacing the retired Frank Sampedro—could work in moonlight, after walking a couple of miles to the studio, “across the meadow, through the valley,” just him and his dogs. “The Rockies are everywhere,” he says of the scene. “And it’s just beautiful. I like that.”