Apparently, my subconscious has decided that it’s Neil Young Week on the ol’ Challenge, and has inflicted itself on the rest of my poor, addled brain. The last one was sort of a no-brainer (Heart of Gold) — I’ve been singing or playing it at jams for a while now. The hardest part of that one, in the end, was mixing the fiddle ride, which I did poorly, I confess. It was much too loud, and I didn’t feel like going back to fix it.
Today, though, I decided to try something that would force me to learn to do something new on the guitar: “Harvest Moon.” I’ve done backing vocals on this song with a number of different bands (usually as a Bluestem Player behind the amazing Andy Juhl), but I’ve never played the guitar on it myself. I’ve always treated it as a special mystery of guitar playing that did not need my ham-fisted attempts at replication. It was about time to fix that attitude, so I dug up some good tab and had at it.
Surprisingly, I think it turned out pretty well. The riff and harmonic progression weren’t as difficult to learn as I had feared they would be (although I wouldn’t dare to do it live right now — I still need more practice to feel safe with it). The fiddle ride went better in this one than in my other Neil Young attempt, and I decided to use a drone on the devil’s instrument instead of a vocal “ooooooh” in parts of the verses. The bass was a little wacky — I just didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do in the chorus, so I ended up guessing a lot. What’s really missing, though, is something special to Mr. Young’s voice that I can’t do — there’s a kind of fragility, a delicacy about the way he sings this song (fairly high in his voice) that I wish I could’ve matched, because I think it really makes the thing work. It makes it sound genuine, where I only make it sound smooth.
Huh. Now what?