Neil Young rebuilds a barn in the Rockies and reunites Crazy Horse

A horse needs a stable.

Neil Young hasn’t rebuilt an 1850s log barn that fell into the ground in the Colorado Rockies only to record an album in with Crazy Horse, his longtime collaborator for more than 50 years, but that was a big part of the Inspiration.

“We got some people to restore it to its original size, with Ponderosa pines, it’s just beautiful, just a beautiful building,” Young told the Associated Press via Zoom of the property he owns Mrs. Daryl Hannah shares. “I had a feeling it would be a great place to make music.”

The space was so important to the process that “Barn” became both the name of the album and an accompanying documentary directed by Hannah that was released on Friday.


It was also an ideal place for Young to carefully meet drummer Ralph Molina, bassist Billy Talbot, and multi-instrumentalist Nils Lofgren.

“It’s out of the way,” said Young. “With the pandemic and everything we thought we could get everyone there safely and have everyone vaccinated and clean.”

Crazy Horse always took Young, now 76, musically to remote places. He says they still have the same “cosmic vibe” as “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” from 1969, “Zuma” from 1975, “Rust Never Sleeps” from 1979 and “Ragged Glory” from 1990.

“It’s just a place we go, that I don’t come with anyone else, with Crazy Horse’s ability to jam and the ability to go on and on with ease,” said Young. “They like to play a song for 20 minutes like three minutes.”

A “barn” is usually musicians’ shorthand for a cold, cavernous room. But this only brought audible warmth.


“It sounds like God because it doesn’t have a square, it doesn’t have standing waves, because it’s all of the insides of these great trunks, one on top of the other,” said Young. “It’s a bunch of round surfaces. From an acoustic point of view, it is flawless. ”

They built a stage inside and played in their live-and-loose style to a recording truck called Le Mobile, which was parked outside by sound engineer Guy Charbonneau and producer Niko Bolas.

“It had just been switched to digital. We took all the digital stuff out and put the analog back in, “he said with a smile.

Aside from barn rearing, Young stayed busy during the coronavirus pandemic, writing all nine songs for the album and putting together the next wave of recordings to be released through his archive website.

“There were no distractions,” he said. “And we didn’t have any redundant jobs to do, no insignia, to keep it going and to tour, it all went away. It was fine with me. I have so much to do.”


Volume three of the cross-career archive, which covers a period in the mid-1970s, was put together with the support of fans who write about his music with their memories and sometimes point out things he did not remember.

“It’s really a beautiful work, all the songs that made me feel so good and things I’ve never heard in my life and discovered,” said Young. “There’s a Crazy Horse record, a live performance by Crazy Horse that opens the third band, which I think is the best that Crazy Horse has ever recorded.”

Hannah’s film patiently runs the album process, with slow glances at the barn at sunset, a couple of dogs lounging outside, and long takes of the band’s unfolding jams.

“I’m very lucky,” Young said of Hannah. “She is the other side of everything. We create it and turn around and we see what she saw when we created. ”

The album contains songs celebrating love, memory and old friends, but it is obscured by the state of a world that stirs Young’s sadness and anger.


The pandemic feels present in the long signature song “Welcome Back”.

“Because the world has us locked in, but we have to allow change,” sings Young. “Welcome back, welcome back, it’s not the same. The shadow is just that you blink. ”

His anger over the lethargic global approach to climate change is palpable in “Human Race”, in which he sings about “children of the fires and floods that the people of today have left behind”.

“It annoys me that we don’t do so much and that we are so distracted,” he said. “We lose track of what to do. I guess you know the earth is challenged if we want a place for our children, for our grandchildren, we’d better pack our things. ”

He sighed and said, “The best I can do is create art or music or something that gives people a place to go.”


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