Neil Young, "A Letter Home" (Reprise)
Neil Young's sporadic concept records aren't for everyone. "A Letter Home" should be.
While still an esoteric venture -- Young recorded it in a refurbished 1947 Voice-O-Graph -- the songs he chose are familiar ones, making this more accessible than previous out in left field Young releases.
Among the songs: Bob Dylan's "Girl From the North Country," Bruce Springsteen's "My Home Town," Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" and "Crazy," and Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain." They are a reflection of Young's roots and musical backbone, made all the more clear by the heartfelt and intimate delivery.
Now, back to the box.
Young, 68, was captivated by the Voice-O-Graph that Jack White had restored and made available at his recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee. Typically used by amateurs to record one song at a time, which is immediately laid down on vinyl, Young decided to cram himself into the phone booth-sized contraption and record an entire record.
The songs sound like they came from another age -- complete with scratches, pops and imperfections usually only heard on old vinyl records. Adding to the idiosyncratic approach, Young fashioned the entire record as a letter home to his deceased mother, delivering her a playlist of some of his favorite tunes.
It's clear these songs are a part of Young's musical DNA, and it's almost as if the listener is being invited into his living room for a private concert -- delivered from inside a phone booth, of course.