By James Calemine
“Got a pot belly. It’s not too big. Gets in my way when I’m driving my rig.
Driving this country in a big old rig, things I see mean a lot.
My friend has a pick up. Drives his kids to school. Now she’s doin’ nails.
Gotta get a job.
Got a good teacher. There’s a fork in the road ahead.
I don’t know which way I’m gonna turn…”
It’s no secret Neil Young has always been a car, train and electricity freak for the last five decades. His 2009 CD—Fork In The Road—revolves around driving…constant motion. The opening track, “When Worlds Collide”, offers a gritty Neil riff that promises a rollicking collection. “Her engine is running/And her fuel is clean”, sings Neil on “Fuel Line”. Neil’s ongoing work with Biodiesel and constantly searching for alternative fuels runs as a subtle theme in this rocking tune.
Fork In the Road serves as an electric opposite to Young’s 2005 acoustic-based Prairie Wind. “Just Singing A Song” calls to mind Crazy Horse in its most whacked-out glory as Neil sings “You can drive my car”, and then his anti-hero line, “Just singing a song won’t change the world…”
“Johnny Magic” tells the story of a man with “a way with machines,” and on various levels reflects the dire situation of this country’s car industry and more people losing jobs. What I’ve always loved about Neil is he never covers the same ground. He keeps moving—embracing change. “Johnny Magic” proves Neil can still lay down some mean-ass rock and roll.
More great guitar riffs from Neil on “Cough Up the Bucks”; The guy fits American culture so well into song: “Where did all the money go?/Where did all the cash flow?/Cough up the bucks.” Neil is right here, right now. He’s not lost back in 1974 somewhere. You must give him righteous credit for moving forward.
A roadhouse rocker, “Get Behind The Wheel” will transfer well to a live audience along with the rest of these numbers. The first slow song on the CD, “Off the Road”, evokes images of brake lights lined up on the freeway in some monotonous traffic jam. Neil sings, “The end is nowhere in sight/But you still can’t take your eyes off the road.”
A loud, foot-stomping “Hit The Road” tells of another “hottie”—one with the top down. “Light A Candle”, a classic song foreseeing a grim future with Ben Keith’s weeping pedal steel in the background. The title-track, another juke joint ditty, spins a tale of a trucker facing a changing economy and what’s become of ‘The American Dream’. These songs warn us all…we’re at a fork in the road…
Read about Neil Young’s Special Deluxe in Insured Beyond The Grave Vol. 2.