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All Songs Considered Blog
Fri May 11, 2012
Song Premiere: Neil Young Sets 'Americana' On Fire
Originally published on Sat May 12, 2012 4:43 pm
You've never heard "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain" quite like this. For their first album together in nine years, Neil Young and Crazy Horse have taken classic American folk music and reinvigorated these songs with muscle, radiance and a whole lot of electric guitar. Some songs from the 19th century include "Oh Susanna" (no banjo here) and "Tom Dula" (you may know it better as "Tom Dooley"). Then there are songs from the last century that include Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," complete with the original "deleted verses." Other surprises on the record, beyond the fiery versions of these songs, include a version of the 1957 doo-wop song by The Silhouettes, "Get a Job."
The album, Americana, comes out June 5, with performances by Young, Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina and Poncho Sampedro. We'll premiere this song today; you probably know it as "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain," but here it's titled "Jesus' Chariot." This song, as with all the songs on the record, have been paired up with archival footage. This footage is from an early scene in D.W. Griffith's controversial 1915 film Birth of a Nation, in which the Southern Cameron family hosts a farewell ball for soldiers fighting for the Confederacy.
As for the song itself, Neil Young writes in the liner notes to Americana:
Written in the 1800s based on an old Negro spiritual, this song refers to the second coming of Jesus, and "she" is the chariot Jesus is coming on. Some interpret this as the end of the world. Others have said that "she" refers to union organizer Mary Harris "Mother" Jones going to promote formation of labor unions in the Appalachian coal-mining camps. The Americana arrangement continues the folk process with a new melody, a new title and a combination of lyric sources.