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By David Werther.

Neil Young, A Letter Home (Reprise, 2014)

           Neil Young’s latest, A Letter Home (LH), is lo-fi with a vengeance, a collection of songs and messages recorded in a Voice-o-Rama, a 1940s recording contraption the size of a telephone booth. Given that, of late, Young has been raising funds for a state-of-the-art audio, Pono, and delayed the release of a CSNY recording because he was not satisfied with the sound quality, his release of a snap-crackle-pop Voice-o-Rama recording seems bizarre, even for an artist as befuddling as Young.

           What’s not oddball is Young’s ostensible message to his mother “up there” (i.e., in heaven), the spoken-word track that begins LH. Young’s parents, Rassy and Scott, divorced in 1960; Young ends his message to “Mom” with his broken heart on his sleeve, telling her to “start talking to Daddy again.”

           The songs that follow, like Bert Jansch’s song “Needle of Death” — an inspiration for Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done," Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe,” and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain," all cover versions of other artists’ work, are rough and raw, as befits much of the material, and utterly appropriate for a son to share with his mother. No need to make any pretensions about perfection — musical or otherwise. We know ourselves too well for that. And anyway, Mom doesn’t care about the crackles in the soundtrack; all that matters is what her son has to say and that he took the time to say it. And, if it had been a conventional recording, Rassy would never have believed that it was coming from her Neil.

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