Neil Young has been awfully busy in the past few months — or as busy as a rock legend can be while self-isolating in his remote Colorado house, anyway. Young has finally released Homegrown, his legendary and long-shelved 1975 solo album. He’s made political endorsements: first Bernie Sanders, then Joe Biden. And he’s shared a bunch of his Fireside Sessions videos. In those clips, Young plays half-hour acoustic sets around his house, and his wife Darryl Hannah records them. They’re great. Today, we’ve gotten a new one, and it’s almost entirely made up of political songs. Apparently, Neil Young has been watching the news, too.
Young plays most of his latest Fireside Session video on his front porch. (He’s called it the “Porch Episode.”) For this set, Young digs deep into his trove of political songs. Plenty of them are canonical classics. Young plays “Southern Man,” from 1970’s After The Gold Rush. He plays “Alabama,” from 1972’s Harvest. He plays “Ohio,” the fiery Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young single that he wrote in 1970. He also covers his old friend Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” Unless I’m missing something, it’s the first time Young has ever covered that song.
Some of Young’s choices are a little more left-field. In the Porch Episode, he also performs “Campaigner,” a strangely sympathetic song about Richard Nixon that originally appeared on the 1977 greatest-hits collection Decade. It’s Young’s first time performing that song since 2008. Also, Young plays “Lookin’ For A Leader,” from the 2006 album Living With War, and he adjusts the lyrics so that they’re about he current presidential election: “Yeah, we had Barack Obama, and we really need him now/ The man who stood behind him has to take his place somehow/ America has a leader building walls around our house/ Don’t know Black lives matter, and we gotta vote him out.”
The last two songs in the set are the only ones that aren’t outwardly political. One is “Little Wing,” which Young originally recorded for Homegrown and which he also released on 1980’s “Hawks & Doves.” I couldn’t recognize the other song, and Young sings it so quietly that I couldn’t make out any lyrics to Google.
Watch that set at Young’s Neil Young Archives website.