There aren’t many farmhouses that grab attention in the world of rock and roll, but Neil Young’s barn is one of those buildings that has somehow secured a place in the history books.
Famed for Young’s demand of “more barn!” when previewing his album to Graham Nash out on a lake by his house, using it as a mega-watt speaker, the barn also hosted this incredible performance of ‘Are You Ready For The Country’ with Young and The Stray Gators.
The track, released in 1972 as part of Young’s iconic record Harvest, sees the singer in imperious form. As well as his usual stunning vocal you can feel the extra intent Young is putting into his songwriting and, perhaps most importantly, the musicians he has surrounded himself with.
“I was talkin’ to the preacher, said, ‘God was on my side’/Then I ran into the hangman, he said, ‘It’s time to die’,” sings Young in the song, offering up an overarching theme of dread. The singer manages to skirt the heavy subjects he approached sin After The Gold Rush and instead offers a more widely reflective vision of morose modernity.
The track has never been seen as part of Young’s impressive upper echelon of music but it did allow one fantastic thing, Jack Nitzsche on slide guitar. Nitzsche expert performing is most perfectly seen in the footage below.
Shot on 26th September 1971, the film captures the lazy way Nitzsche played. That’s not meant as a derogatory remark, merely that the guitarist was able to play notes and patterns that would leave a lot of musicians scratching their heads, all while Nitzches figuratively scratches his arse.
Young stays on the piano for the performance and does his best funky jumping on the keys to give the track a little extra pep. However, it’s very hard to concentrate on anything but Nitzsche’s guitar and Young’s lyrics, which are as astute as ever.
In 1971, Neil Young was operating under his own terms and creating music that he desperately wanted to hear. He was moving rock ‘n’ roll into something more poetic, more personal and more potent. He did this heavy lifting of an entire genre from his barn, as any good country boy would.
Watch below as Neil Young and The Stray Gators perform ‘Are You Ready For The Country’ from his iconic barn back in 1971.