"Run, Neil, Run" - 2005
On November 12,2005 Neil Young will be sixty years old. One of rock’s greatest artists and a songwriter of undiminished creativity. Young has been written off many times when he failed to deliver, but he came back with powerful music time and again – bittersweet and dark, rebellious and romantic, with rage and with longing. Young even incorporates a sort of jazz attitude by combining dissonant harshness with grace and with pride. The man is taking risks – unlike many of his contemporaries.
Neil Young’s birthday was not on their minds when the members of Sisters Euclid entered the studio in November 2004 to record their tribute to the songs of their Canadian fellow musician. The end result stands as a perfect homage to the central qualities of Young’s oeuvre, however. This is music all about authentic emotion, musical intelligence and a certain kind of rebellious stubbornness. These songs are special and so is the man who invented them. Sisters Euclid have transported them into a different kind of sphere that’s equally engaging and powerful. This is a band that can really play. Play together, that is, with a strong sense of dedication and purpose.
So does a purely instrumental album with re-interpretations of Neil Young songs make sense at all? It does! Even if the man’s celebrated lyrics are missing here, their emotional impact is present nevertheless. Sisters Euclid translate the songs’ messages into a another language that corresponds perfectly with the spirit of the originals. This is music that lives off rock’s energy, the melodic sweetness of folk and a knack for improvisation that is truly captivating. One doesn’t have to be a Neil Young aficionado to appreciate these recordings. But one will most likely listen to his music differently afterwards.
The album starts with Rob Gusev’s organ playing „Dixie“ – the classic Confederate hymn of the South. Kevin Breit’s angry electric slide joins in with the chorus of „Southern Man“ – Young’s controversial anti-racism anthem from the early Seventies. Run, Neil, Run starts with a bang and Sisters Euclid are off on a trip that covers many bases. Different layers of meaning are uncovered in the process and these simple melodies blossom in a new light. It’s a light that illuminates the genius of Neil Young the songwriter. Sisters Euclid are a powerhouse of a band. They rock but they also know how to hold back and guitar-player Kevin Breit shines with a slide sound that is passionate, controlled and works perfectly within the dynamics of the band. There’s a lot of melodic grace combined with a strong sense for resonance and rhythm. Sometimes Breit’s playing reminds of Ry Cooder, but he’s clearly not stepping into anyone’s shoes in a self-conscious kind of way.
The way Sisters Euclid work with these songs is multi-dimensional. The politics of „Southern Man“ or „Ohio“ are palpable, romantic stuff like „Harvest Moon“ is equally romantic here – but different – and the darkness of „Needle And The Damage Done“ is expressed by harmonic and melodic deconstruction. Hidden layers of meaning appear and the band’s collective interplay illustrates how much this music is about a search. It’s the same kind of search that’s at the core of many of Neil Young’s original works. This is music about expression and about freedom.
Sisters Euclid have been working together since 1996. They are Kevin Breit (guitar); Rob Gusevs (organ, keyboards), Ian deSouza (Bass) and Gary Taylor (drums). Breit has made a name for himself in the studio and on stage as a versatile and sensitive accompanist already, having worked with the likes of Cassandra Wilson, Holly Cole, k.d.lang, Janis Ian, Norah Jones and many more. Just like the best music of Neil Young, Sisters Euclid are painting pictures that are truly affecting and their sound is totally bereft of false attitude and pretense. This band is for real and Run, Neil, Run may be their best work yet. It’s a joy to listen to.
Their German debut at the Berlin Jazzfestival 2004 stirred a great deal of interest in Sisters Euclid in Europe and their new album is a must for any serious music lover and anyone with even a vague interest in the songs of Neil Young.