Greg Hoy Pays Homage to Neil Young Via New EP
Greg Hoy begins his Neil Young covers EP Old Man and the Cinnamon Girl with Young’s 1972 classic “Old Man”. Hoy hit upon the novel idea of transforming Young’s songs adding Clyde Stubblefield’s inimitable drumming after purchasing selected drum tracks from a private collector. It’s an unique marriage that gives much of this EP its distinctive spin. There is nothing in his recent discography suggesting that Hoy would take this detour, but it is nevertheless an entertaining and illuminating interlude in his career. It comes on the heels of Hoy concluding a twenty-five show US tour in the fall of 2021 for his recent release Cacophony and shows the California headquartered singer/songwriter/musician has no intention of slowing down.
Building his covers around drum tracks from the late Clyde Stubblefield may seem like a gimmick on first inspection. It is not, however. It’s an outside the box brainstorm that pays immediate dividends for listeners when they hear the opener. “Old Man”, arguably one of Young’s most popular numbers, undergoes a profound change in direction under Hoy’s auspices and Stubblefield’s drumming is a crucial reason why. It creates a whole new groove for the cut without ever venturing too far away from its roots.
“Cinnamon Girl” accomplishes the same feat, albeit by different methods. Clyde Stubblefield’s percussion gives this re-envisioning a different sort of bounce than anything we have heard from Neil, but Hoy insists on maintaining significant fidelity to other parts of the original. Pulling back a little on the guitar is a bold move considering it’s a song signature, but it pays off in a big way. It is an imaginative accomplishment worthy of your applause.
“Needle and the Damage Done” is as well. Hoy does not have to deal with an overpowering guitar presence on this track, Neil’s version relies on understated acoustic rather than rock bluster. Hoy doesn’t let that stop him, however, from varying his line of attack with the guitar. He emphasizes the percussion, once again. The vocal may annoy fans of the original whereas newcomers to the song may embrace its strengths. “Are There Any More Real Cowboys?” is pulled from Neil’s 1985 release Old Ways (the release that his own record label sued him for, annoyed by his genre hopping) and is due for some well-deserved attention.
Hoy, however, may pull the rug out from under a few listeners as he eschews the approach guiding each of the first three songs in favor of his vocals, an acoustic guitar, and harmonica. Nothing else. It ‘s unabashed earnestness, however, will curry favor with more than a few listeners and ends the EP on a low-key note. His harmonica playing is especially good. It ends Old Man and the Cinnamon Girl in a less audacious way than you might expect, but it’s a solid finale. Hoy has tackled the difficult task of covering another artist, an icon, and saying something personal with rare skill and imagination. It’s an excellent detour between his albums of original material.