I’m grooving to Earth as I type – both the planet and Neil Young’s latest album. It’s a collection of nature-inspired songs from throughout his career (plus the new “Seed Justice”) recorded with Promise of the Real during the 2015 Rebel Content tour and enhanced, on some tracks, with a choir and assorted animal noises, including birds, crickets and other insects. There’s a few songs from last year’s The Monsanto Years, plus “My Country Home,” “Vampire Blues,” “Human Highway,” “After the Gold Rush” and a 28-minute “Love & Only Love.” It’s loud, electric and intimate, all at once.
And, yes, the featured creatures give it a surreal edge. It’s slightly crazed. It’s also great.
1) Neil Young & Promise of the Real – “Like an Inca.” A great version of the classic Trans-era song, which isn’t on Earth (though well could’ve been), performed in Paris on June 23, 2016.
2) Rylie Bourne – “Mary Ann.” If you were to ask me what my favorite album is at the moment, it wouldn’t be Neil’s Earth (I’ve only had a day with it), but Rylie Bourne’s self-titled debut. It was released in late 2015, though I wasn’t aware of it at the time; if I had, it easily would’ve been one of my favorites of the year. It’s that good. In short: It’s country music the way country music should be, of the soul and heart. It conjures the Carter Family, Merle Haggard and the outlaw sound. At times, it’s light; more often, however, it’s dark and cathartic – think Hank Jr.’s Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound (minus the orneriness). “Mary Ann” echoes Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”
In years (decades?) past, she easily would’ve found a home on WXPN, Philadelphia’s listener-supported radio station. Back in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, when they played less of the old and more of the new, they helped break quite a few of the classic Americana-country acts, including Mary Chapin Carpenter, Nanci Griffith, the Jayhawks and Lucinda Williams, as well as the post-prison Steve Earle. (I actually tweeted the Morning Show about Rylie, and they said they’d check her out. Fingers crossed they do.)
3) Rylie Bourne – “Foolin’ Myself.” Another thing that I like about the album: It simultaneously honors and stretches country conventions. Forget tear-in-my-beer laments; here’s a vodka-in-a-water-bottle alcoholic’s tale. The protagonist is both self-aware and in denial; and will break your heart.
4) Victoria Reed – “Nothing to Lose.” Here’s another favorite new artist of mine. The daughter of Alto Reed, sax player for Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band, she mines a folksy pop sound that’s utterly intoxicating. Her debut album, Chariot, was released earlier this year. I’d love to say I discovered it on my own, but it was her dad – who I follow on Facebook – that pointed the way. (She’s someone else who should be getting airplay on XPN.)
5) Victoria Reed – “Make It Easy.” Here’s another taste:
Just sat down to write and ask your thoughts of Earth when I saw you had a new post and there it was – your first impressions of the album. Did you opt for the hi-rez Pono files?
I remember reading or hearing about Ms. Bourne (late bloomer, student, family of musicians) somewhere earlier this year and back in March had added her album to the ALBUMS TO LISTEN TO playlist I keep in Spotify. Depending on your views, that playlist is either a curse or a blessing. I just find myself falling back to old favorites or new music by old favorites rather than checking out stuff I’ve never heard before but given your rave and the trust I have in your taste, I’m gonna slip Rylie on later tonight.
Speaking of trusting your taste in tunes, that playlist you shared just accompanied me on an impromptu 2500 mile solo road trip through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Arizona. I listened to it maybe six times and it just kept getting better and better each time. Thank you so much for that.