Sunday, August 5, 2018

Certain Songs #1282: Neil Young – “From Hank to Hendrix” | Medialoper

Album: Harvest Moon
Year: 1992

Recorded at Redwood Digital on September 20, 1991

As the first song cut for Harvest Moon, “From Hank To Hendrix” definitely set the tone for the sessions: laid-back and mellow, just a bunch of friends playing and singing songs together. Not so far off from Ragged Glory, absent the waves of distorted guitars.

Which I think gets at the reason I love both of these albums so much: they feel loose, unforced, with the quality of the playing, singing and (especially) the songwriting so top-notch you hardly even notice how casual it all sounds.

With Kenny Buttrey & Tim Mulligan essaying an easy-going rhythms, Spooner Oldham dishing decorative organ & Ben Keith’s steel snaking its way through the song, you might not even notice that “From Hank To Hendrix” has some pretty heavy lyrics about a relationship gone sour.

From Hank to Hendrix
I walked these streets with you
Here I am with this old guitar
Doing what I do
I always expected
That you should see me through
I never believed in much
But I believed in you

And with a harmonica flourish that is his alone — a full-mouthed trill that almost brings the song to a halt — Neil gets the same help he got on “Heart of Gold” two decades prior as James Taylor & Linda Ronstadt join in on the chorus.

Can we get it together
Can we still stand side by side
Can we make it last
Like a musical ride?

The stop-time on the word “ride” is pure genius, setting up the combo harmonica / hurdy-gurdy solo that Neil plays before going into the devastating second verse.

From Marilyn to Madonna
I always loved your smile
Now we’re headed
For the big divorce
I found myself singing
Like a long-lost friend
The same thing that makes you live
Can kill you in the end

So if “Unknown Legend” was all about falling in love, then “From Hank to Hendrix” is about what happens when that love runs out. At the time, of course, it was clearly a story song, or at the very least, Neil looking ahead 20 years and worrying about the future.

“From Hank to Hendrix”

“From Hank to Hendrix” live at Farm Aid, 1993 (w/ Willie Nelson)

“From Hank to Hendrix” MTV Unplugged, 1993

“From Hank to Hendrix” solo acoustic live at the Bridge School Benefit, 1998

“From Hank to Hendrix” live at Farm Aid, 2000

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