LISTEN: 4 Simmering Protest Songs from Neil Young’s New Album PEACE TRAIL

by Peter Wendel
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NeilYoungPeaceTrailArtAs constant as the sun rising in the East, Neil Young is still out there railing against the evil ways of the government and the greed of the powerful – just as he’s been doing for decades with songs like “Ohio,” the chilling anti-war anthem, and “Vampire Blues,” a track that condemns America’s blood-sucking addiction to its own natural resources.

The difference is that now, many miles down the road, Neil’s message is even more urgent. It seems now the message is above all else.

Neil makes his fiery (and ongoing) case against the Powers that Be on his new – mainly acoustic – protest album, fittingly titled, Peace Trail. Mr. Young is nothing if not persistent (not to mention relevant) as he takes on topics ripped right from the headlines, like our all-consuming fear of terrorism, the Dakota Access oil pipeline encroaching on sacred Native American land and the foul water that’s poisoned the people of Flint, MI.

NeilYoungWikiPerOleHagenFeaturedNeil began writing the 10 stripped-down tracks for Peace Trail soon after the summer release of his unconventional album, Earth – an LP that mixes live performances with “wildlife special effects.”

He recorded Peace Trail at Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La Studios (hidden somewhere in Malibu, CA) with just two other musicians, bassist Paul Bushnell and drummer Jim Keltner. Reportedly, most of the album’s 10 tracks were finalized in only a few takes.

Neil Young
Peace Trail (2016)

“Indian Givers” mixes two of Neil’s favorite topics, the white man’s persecution of Native Americans and other indigenous people (e.g., “Pocahontas,” “Cortez The Killer”) and America’s abuse of the environment (e.g., “After The Gold Rush,” “After The Garden”). Young visited Standing Rock this past November – the site of a bitter, ongoing protest over the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline which threatens the sanctity of Sioux sacred lands. For Neil, this is yet another instance of the white man taking from Native Americans. The irony and sarcasm tied up in the title “Indian Givers” is classic Neil Young.

Neil Young
Peace Trail (2016)

The album’s opening title track is a thumping fuzzed-up meditation on the changing world – and whether to adapt or give it all up. As for Neil, he’s hitting the “Peace Trail.”

The world is full of changes
Sometimes all these changes make me sad
(I have to plant them seeds
Till something new is growing)

Neil Young
Peace Trail (2016)

Neil gets up on his soap box and preaches about how we’ve lost our way.

I’m lost in this new generation
Left me behind, it seems
Listening to the shadow of Jimi Hendrix
“Purple Haze” soundin’ like TV

Neil Young
Peace Trail (2016)

Shrill harmonica blasts punctuate this track about the paranoia and xenophobia that come with our fear of terrorism.

Peter Wendel is a journalist and PR consultant. He's attended hundreds of concerts and festivals, including the Peach, Mountain Jam, the All Good and Lockn'. He's ridden legendary Grateful Dead runs from Ventura County Fairgrounds to Irvine Meadows (CA) from the Nassau Coliseum (NY) to the Boston Garden (MA). Peter is a former U.S. Marine who – after running into trouble with every last one of his commanding officers – received an honorable discharge and a direct order never to return. Born in California and raised in New Jersey, Peter lived in Boston and Joshua Tree (CA) before settling in the nation's capital. Find him on tour at