Neil Young is kicking around with his old proto-grunge band Crazy Horse again and today, fans can hear and watch another fuzz-out reinterpretation of a tune ripped from the American songbook. “Jesus’ Chariot (She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain” will be the eighth track on the appropriately titled Americana, which streets June 5 via Reprise. (This will be Young’s first collaboration with Crazy Horse since the Greendale album and tour in 2003 and 2004. )
Young paired the stormy “Jesus’ Chariot” with some old timey video. Watch it, below. The visuals are culled from D.W. Griffith 1915 silent film epic, Birth of a Nation. The footage is specifically from the film’s grand farewell ball scene in Piedmont, South Carolina and the “bonfire celebrations in the streets.” The latter scenes look like a riot to my eyes. The movie was originally called the Clansmen, so it’s pretty damn racist.
This is an interesting filmic choice from Young and his crew since the chant-inducing song they are reinterpreting, “Oh Susannah,” was originally a Negro spritual from the 1800s. Most American schoolchildren have learned its famous melody in a PG version.
Young’s liner notes for the track give the listener a little history lesson on the dual meaning of the tune: “This song refers to the second coming of Jesus, and ‘she’ is the chariot Jesus is coming on. Some intepret this as the end of the world. Others have said that ‘she’ refers to union organizer Mary Harris ‘Mother’ Jones going to promote the formation of labor unions in the Appalachian coal-mining camps.”
Here, the song is turned on its head by Crazy Horse and morphs into an apocalyptic-yet-ebullient electric guitar beast. With the exception of 2006’s Living With War, Young vocals haven’t sounded this fiery in many years. Be sure to also check out the band’s version of “Oh Susanna.”