Neil Young’s vast catalogue of unreleased albums have been slowly but surely seeing the light of day, in recent times we have seen Hitchhiker, originally recorded in 1976 but released in 2017. After that two live albums Songs for Judy and Tuscaloosa were unearthed, recorded in 1976 and 1973 but released over forty years later in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The latest one is Homegrown, a personal album influenced by the breakup of his marriage to Carrie Snodgrass. It was recorded and planned for release in 1975 but shelved at the last moment in favour of grief fueled rock of Tonight’s the Night.
Musically it is similar to Harvest – a melodious mix of folk, country and rock with honest and heartfelt lyrics. The opening two tracks ‘Separate Ways’ and ‘Try’ are good introductions to the album, the former is a sweet yet melancholic tune about the bittersweet disintegration of a relationship. The latter is a more hopeful ditty, a leisurely slice of country about making amends and trying to start anew with someone. Like these songs the record as a whole is simple, to the point and very effective – with its effectiveness helped tremendously by the warm, old fashioned production.
A few tracks here have appeared on other Neil records, the short and sweet mix of acoustic and harmonica that is ‘Love is a Rose’ was on the 1977 compilation Decade. The touching ‘White Line’ and its tale of life on the road was first released on 1990s Ragged Horse and is one of many highlights here. Of a similar vein is the softly played and wistful curtain closer ‘Star of Bethlehem’, which first made an appearance on American Stars n Bars.
It is not all pensive acoustic and harmonica as the relaxed southern rock of ‘Homegrown’ – also on A.S.n.B – provides welcome light relief. Also of this ilk is the reefa inspired ‘We Don’t Smoke It No More’, a lighthearted bluesy tune in which they profess not to touch the stuff. “I look in your eyes and I don’t know what’s there” opines Neil on the ear grabbing ‘Vacancy’, an amped up tune wondering where the person you fell for went. Although the less said about ‘Florida’ – a bizarre dream spoken over someone running their finger round a glass – the better.
It may have taken him 45 years and come from place of heartache but Homegrown’s mix of melancholia, sweet yet plaintive melodies and memorable hooks was definitely worth the wait.