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Neil Young conjures up the past in more ways than one on A Letter Home.

Neil Young conjures up the past in more ways than one on A Letter Home.

Darryl Sterdan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:33 PM ET

Some artists could make an album from the phone book. Only Neil Young would make one in a phone booth. As you already know if you’ve been paying attention, the 68-year-old singer-songwriter and veteran left fielder’s 35th studio album A Letter Home was cut in the refurbished 1947 Voice-O-Graph recording booth of Jack White’s Third Man Records complex in Nashville.

So, OK, technically it’s not a phone booth. But that doesn’t stop the unceasingly creative Young from using it as a direct line to his musical and personal past. Along with covering a slate dominated by classic folk and country — Dylan’s Girl From the North Country, Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain and If You Could Read My Mind Love, Willie Nelson’s Crazy and the like — Young spends some time talking to his late mom Rassy, reminiscing about his Winnipeg youth, urging her to talk to his dad and asking her to say hi to late bandmate Ben Keith. And yeah, it’s as weird as it sounds.

But the bulk of the disc is weirdly compelling; thanks to the scratchy textures and no-fi mono sonics, the recordings — mostly just Neil and his acoustic guitar, though White adds piano and harmonies on a couple of cuts — sound like long-lost relics from an old Harry Smith or Alan Lomax anthology. Which is likely something both Young and White would appreciate. Right now, A Letter Home is available on vinyl from Third Man; the major-label CD version comes May 27. There will also be a limited-edition box set containing two vinyl LPs, the CD, a download card, a DVD chronicling the recording and seven clear-vinyl 45s. Phone book not included.

For one week - prior to its release May 27 - we'll be streaming A Letter Home in its entirety.


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