The forecast for A Letter Home, Neil Young's forthcoming LP? Cloudy, with a chance of Early Morning Rain.
The album, a collection of wistful, highly lo-fi covers recorded with a little help from rocker Jack White on a refurbished 1947 Voice-O-Graph recording booth at White's Third Man Records headquarters in Nashville, begins with Young reciting an off-the-cuff letter to his late mother. He's touching base with her, and expresses his worry over the planet's current climate upheaval. "The whole thing is just like nothing I've ever seen before," he tells her.
After the spoken-word intro, the album (which includes unadorned versions of Gordon Lightfoot's Early Morning Rain and If You Could Read My Mind) begins with Young's gentle take on Phil Och's Changes, a mellow meditation on the circle of time and things that are out of our control. "The world's spinning madly, it drifts in the dark, swings through a hollow of haze," Young croons shakily. "A race around the stars, a journey through the universe ablaze, with changes."
The material is personal to Young, and it is delivered by the old-fashioned intimacy of a mono recording. He whistles, he recalls and he strums a parlour-sized acoustic guitar. On his version of Springsteen's My Hometown he alters "my" to "your," thus including us all on his journey backward.
As for the future, Young tells his mother not to expect him any time soon. "I'll be there eventually," he lets her know. "Not for a while though. I still really have a lot of work to do here."
Neil Young's A Letter Home is out May 27. For a limited time, listeners can hear the full album here.
The track-listing for A Letter Home is as follows:
- A Letter Home (spoken intro)
- Changes (Phil Ochs)
- Girl from the North Country (Bob Dylan)
- Needle of Death (Bert Jansch)
- Early Morning Rain (Gordon Lightfoot)
- Crazy (Willie Nelson)
- Reason to Believe (Tim Hardin), with a second, shorter letter-home intro
- On the Road Again (Willie Nelson)
- If You Could Read My Mind (Gordon Lightfoot)
- Since I Met You Baby (Ivory Joe Hunter)
- My Hometown (Bruce Springsteen)
- I Wonder If I Care as Much (Don Everly)