We read a bad review of this and feared it would be like some of his recent releases — his work rate is admirable while his quality control is not — but it’s very good. It’s not up there with his best but it’s listenable and more casual fans of Young will find much to enjoy.
Recorded in four days, we imagine Young leafing through the LA Times and producing a song based on whatever narked him in the news: the row over the Dakota access pipeline at Standing Rock inspires at least two songs, Indian Givers and Show Me, while the highly likeable John Oaks tells of an irrigation expert “drinking chai and smoking weed”, who trucks in friends to protest against politicians and is shot by mistake when his old truck backfires. This could be about Standing Rock again or John Bertram Oakes, an influential US journalist known for his commitment to the environment and civil rights. There’s also a line about “a sniper on the knoll” — a reference to a dead Kennedy being assassinated because he got in the way, too?
Texas Rangers appears to be about the police only letting people know what they want them to: “You can see things / When they show you … Texas Rangers come to save you / Come to rescue,” perhaps summing up the confusion of people there to serve being an occasional disappointment, or the irony of cops shooting people they’re meant to help.
Lyrically interesting, musically it’s just as good. If it was Young and acoustic guitar it would be a bit dull, but drummer Jim Keltner, bassist Paul Bushnell — and of course Young on his electric guitar — lift the songs well above Young’s more routine stuff.
Basically folk, the tracks lean towards blues and jazz in places, but are entertainingly quirky, often because of the drums; they have a real live sound, as if Keltner was doing a rough drum track using percussion, old wooden boxes and a dustbin lid, and they just kept them all.
Try the opener, the title track, one of Young’s better tunes (with added Autotunes), a ramshackle electric folk tune with the glorious line “Up in the rainbow tepee sky”.