Saturday, March 8, 2014

Southern Man

In which the amazing "Gimme Shelter" vocalist takes one of Neil Young's greatest songs, if possible, to an even higher height.

We all know the feud between Lynyrnd Skynyrd and ol' Neil wasn't real. Many haven't seemed to notice or grok the background singers in "Sweet Home Alabama"—including, yes, a certain Merry Clayton—catcalling "boo! boo! boo!" to the very mention of Alabama Governor George Wallace's name. "Sweet Home Alabama" is a far more nuanced song than generally acknowledged. Meanwhile, Mr. Young's song can be criticized as something of a carpetbagging attack on a culture of which he, as a Canadian living in California, couldn't really understand or have any sort of in-depth knowledge, even as he appropriated many of its artistic hallmarks. [And, yes, I know they were probably responding to "Alabama" and not "Southern Man."]

Even were any of that true, however, having an African-American gospel singer from Louisiana cover Neil Young's song blows any such criticisms into dust. If there's anything at all disappointing about this version, it's that it's not twice as long.

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