Over the years, Neil Young’s best songs have always had an emotional power and resonance to them that have served to set him apart from other lesser talented singer / songwriters.
“Ohio” which was inspired by the 1970 Kent State killings (when he was still with CSNY),”The Needle and the Damage Done,” his tale about the horrific human cost of drug addiction, “Powderfinger,” his statement on American nihilism and violence and his sardonic 90s anthem “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World” are some of the many shining examples that one could cite as testimony to this.
There are a number of the twelve tracks on his latest album Homegrown, a record that was inspired by his agonizing breakup with actress Carrie Snodgrass and originally slated for release in 1974, that could justifiably be added to this list.
Chief among them being the disquieting and sobering “Love Is A Rose,” the piercing and stirring ” Star of Bethlehem”, and the painfully optimistic “Separate Ways” and “Try.”
On this record, the despaired Young, in his characteristically evocative voice, mournfully and openly wonders why love has to be so bruising and merciless even as he philosophically comes to terms with it and simultaneously wishes that him and Snodgrass could get back together.
In Young’s world of love and relationships on this album, there are always going to be unanswered questions and unresolved feelings and in the end, a need to move on nonetheless because sometimes that’s all you can do.
While the title track is an obvious reference and salute to a certain plant that one smokes to deal with the stresses of everyday life, it also serves as Young’s way of acknowledging that love and life are so distressing that there is always a need and desire by us as humans to anesthetize the way that we feel.
In the end, it’s not hard to see why Young, fresh off the breakup with Snodgrass, deemed the record too personal and painful to release at the time.
It is an intense and at times searing look at love, relationships, heartbreak, loss, grief and the desperate struggle to maintain a sense of hope in an ever darkening world that leaves you pondering some very heavy questions about the way we live with and share love with each other.
It’s hard to imagine anyone with any experience at all with the interactions between love and relationships in this life not being able to find one, two, or even multiple songs to relate to off this contemplative and moving album.
Homegrown on Reprise Records by Neil Young is now available on his website and on all of the major streaming services.
Neil Young -guitar,harmonica, piano,vocals; Ben Keith -pedal steel guitar, lap slide guitar, dobro, vocals; Tim Drummond – bass, vocals; Levon Helm-drums; Karl T. Himmel-drums; Robbie Robertson-guitar; Emmylou Harris-backing vocals; Sandy Mazzeo-backing vocals
Produced by Neil Young, Elliot Mazer, Ben Keith, and Tim Mulligan.