Various Artists

Cinnamon Girl: Women Artists Cover Neil Young for Charity

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This two-disc, 21-track compilation of women artists covering early era (1969 to 1979) Neil Young songs is an intriguing concept, even if the results seem just a bit less intriguing than the idea itself. Young, with his high, reedy voice and wounded-bird-in-love-and-life persona, practically created the template for the singer/songwriter school of rock in the late '60s and early '70s, and the best of his songs, for all the deconstruction and recasting and genre hopping he's done since, are beautifully written remnants from the fragile land of the heart, and a good deal of that heart of glass approach translates well here. The problem is how to improve or at least find a new path to Young's own versions of these songs. Part of his appeal has always been his restless, enigmatic nature, and as these artists no doubt discovered in covering his songs, much of what makes his work shine is in what he doesn't say. So while Young's songs are musically simple in structure, getting to the heart of them isn't an easy thing to do, and in no case here is Young's own version of the song ever completely banished to the shadows, which, come to think of it, is usually the problem with these kinds of tribute albums. Still, there's a lot to like here, including Lori McKenna's haunting and atmospheric take on "The Needle and the Damage Done," Jill Sobule's banjo-led "Down by the River," Luff's lushly reconstructed version of "Tell Me Why," and Heidi Gluck's ragged, shuffling, and appropriately feisty rendition of "Walk On," making this set well worth investigating, particularly since the proceeds go to Casting for Recovery, a non-profit charity specializing in breast cancer education.

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