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‘All Roads Lead Home’ Was A “Rare Opportunity” For Neil Young, Says Nils Lofgren

‘All Roads Lead Home’ Was A “Rare Opportunity” For Neil Young, Says Nils Lofgren

Recorded during lockdown, ‘All Roads Lead Home’ saw Neil Young and the members of Crazy Horse converge upon a new creative challenge.


After rejoining Neil Young’s long-running backing band, Crazy Horse, in 2019, for the album Colorado, guitarist Nils Lofgren was ready to charge off into the Rockies in search of musical gold. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, this self-described “brotherhood” was forced apart, living in isolation throughout the uncertain period that followed – not that you could tell it from All Roads Lead Home, the hopeful, nostalgic album they recorded remotely and which was released, credited to Molina, Talbot, Lofgren & Young, in the early spring of 2023.

“Live and visceral, no headphones; standing right in front of Ralph’s drums, between Billy and Neil, who’s right in front of me – and just going at it. That’s what we’re best at,” Lofgren tells Dig! of the usual Crazy Horse method of working. Yet despite having to record solo tracks separately from each other, the three members of Crazy Horse – Lofgren, bassist Ralph Molina and drummer Billy Talbot – produced a trio of songs each for All Roads Lead Home; topping them off with Young’s one-man acoustic version of the 2021 Barn album highlight Song Of The Seasons, they assembled an organic-sounding collection that belies the conditions of its creation.

Listen to ‘All Roads Lead Home’ here.

“This is what we got up to, to be professional musicians while we weren’t on the road during the pandemic,” Lofgren says. “We all helped each other out and came up with a great compilation. And we’re proud of it.”

“Neil said, ‘Why don’t you take the best of your songs, and I’ll add a track’”

With any tour plans Young and Crazy Horse had skidding to a halt, the group’s restless leader paved the way for All Roads Lead Home as their next shared project. “It was really Neil who gave us the great idea,” Lofgren says. “‘Why don’t you take the best of your songs, pick three and do one great vinyl, and I’ll add a track.’ And at that point, Billy and Ralph sent me all their stuff and said, ‘Look, I’m so close to this, I need a professional opinion.’ And they got it from me, who wasn’t burdened with all the work they did.”

Listening to the songs as a friend and colleague, rather than a contributing musician who had to work up his own parts for each tune, Lofgren was able to give feedback from the vantage of someone who shared decades’ worth of history with his bandmates, but who could respect their creative choices and help see their work through to completion. Digging out some of his own work, Lofgren received the same support, and All Roads Lead Home began to come together.

“We advised each other as arrangers and producers and old friends, but people with half a century of history together, so we could respect the opinions and what they meant,” he says. “Didn’t always agree with them. But it was very useful to have each other listening and weighing in on what we were doing, just to get outside of ourselves. Because you get so wrapped up in your own work.

“One thing led to another and we each had our top three songs,” the guitarist adds. “It was a very healthy environment where we worked with each other… Even when we were mixing the songs, we gave each other feedback and got to the final choices. And Neil’s top mastering engineer [Chris Bellman] mastered it for us in LA, and it came out great.”

“We’re all having to work to get back to more real moments”

For his three songs, You Will Never Know, Fill My Cup and Go With Me, Lofgren, a multi-instrumentalist prodigy who booked his first Neil Young session at the age of 18, playing guitar and piano on Young’s career-making After The Gold Rush album, played guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and percussion. Going back over his old lyric books and demo recordings in search of material that would fit the wistful mood that pervades much of All Roads Leads Home, Lofgren discovered what would become a highlight on the album, the lilting Go With Me, which finds him reflecting on the simple pleasures that COVID-19 had robbed lovers of – candlelit dinners, late-night movies, slow dancing on a night out. “When my arms close around you,” he sings, with a yearning many could have related to during lockdown, “I ache inside, down low.”

“That was an ancient demo from when I was very young. It was very primitive,” Lofgren says. Yet the song’s weathered disposition belies its beginning as juvenilia, as the now 71-year-old rock veteran looks to the lost days of old-fashioned courtship and finding love and romance without he aid of apps and algorithms.

“I grew up without cell phones, without internet, without an answering machine,” Lofgren explains. “It was a very different time that I benefitted from, and there was an innocence there. And there’s an innocence and a charm in that song that I thought was very powerful.

“That is lost a lot now, because everyone is online dating and you can’t take the phone out of their hand,” he continues. “Back then, you had to address someone in person and look at them. There was never a moment of the day where you escaped into the internet. I can’t even explain to people what that was, to grow up for years with that only.” Lofgren is hopeful that, with the world having re-opened, people will embrace the opportunity to spend more time together in person.

“It’s a powerful thing that you can get back to, and kind of force yourself into that world,” he says. “But it takes work these days. And we’re all having to invest that work to get back to more real moments.”

“I was lucky to find respect and love, so of course I want to give it”

Aiding Lofgren in his moment of emotional time-travel was his brother Tom. Having performed guitar and backing vocals on two of the studio albums by Grin, Lofgren’s short-lived band of the early 70s, Tom’s presence on two of Lofgren’s All Roads Lead Home songs adds an extra layer of shared history – between the Lofgrens as bandmates and siblings – and provides the band of brothers that created the album with a connection to biological family.

“That was another issue of going back for the song, and then having a dear brother, who I grew up with from birth, sing on it,” Lofgren says. “He sang with me on Go With Me and You Will Never Know. He came up with some beautiful harmonies, double-tracked himself. I had a much more powerful chorus on both of them, thanks to Tommy.”

If Go With Me values the early stages of a romance, You Will Never Know casts a glance back at a past relationship, Lofgren singing from the perspective of a new partner taunting his lover’s abusive ex (“You will never know how quick she forgot you”).

“You can look at it a couple of different ways,” Lofgren says. “One quality is, on the darker edges, Hey, we fell in love and you left a guy that was abusive and a piece of shit. Now you’re with me, I’m gonna stick that in his face and tell him to get lost… The other side of it is the charm of being in love and wanting to give respect naturally, and getting it back.”

Lofgren, who, as All Roads Lead Home hit the shelves, on 31 March 2023, had been celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife, Amy – just a quarter of a century shy of the 50-year relationship he has with Crazy Horse – despairs at seeing gender inequalities that have yet to be overcome. “Sadly, there’s a war on women that remains all over the globe. And that’s not always the case where there’s a mutual respect and love. I was lucky to find it, so of course I want to give it.”

“We’ve got as great a writer and singer as there’s ever been. This is a rare opportunity”

Respect and love has kept Crazy Horse together for half a century, and it’s what enabled them to work up an album that has a unity of sound and purpose, despite the restrictions that kept its creators at a remove from each other. However, speaking to The New Yorker’s Amanda Petrusich in November 2022, around the release of World Record, his 15th studio album with Crazy Horse, Young, who, on Song Of The Seasons, his contribution to All Roads Lead Home, sings of the passage of time and “a message I see of what’s to come”, suggested that, at age 77, retirement “doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility”.

“We’ve had more than our share,” Lofgren acknowledges, adding, of Young, who was part of Buffalo Springfield when they scored their first hit, For What It’s Worth, in 1967, a year before Young released his self-titled debut album, “Very few people have had this kind of longevity.” Together, however, Young and Crazy Horse have come out of COVID-19 not only with a new album, but, to Lofgren’s mind, more reasons to keep forging ahead.

“It’s a feeling of gratitude that this is a rare opportunity,” he explains. “We’ve got the history, we’re all still standing with enough health to play well, to sing well, and we’ve got as great a writer and singer as there’s ever been. So what’s the problem? There is no problem. Let’s just plough through, do the best we can and move on to the next chapter. And I hope there are many more.”

Looking for more? Check out the best Neil Young songs.

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