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Shane Larmand - National Ramble (Shane Larmand Music)

5 June 2024

I always maintain that there are certain artists that you shouldn’t cover, not because I consider them sacred and untouchable, well, a bit, but mainly because there seems little point. Either you do a faithful version of their song, one that might come close to the original but add little new to the musical landscape, or you put a radical spin on things, inviting accusations of assuming that you know better than the original artist. Neil Young is one of those artists, for me anyway.

That said, Shane Larmand’s reverential take on “Harvest Moon” gets things just right. Musically celebrating the original, vocally, it is very much his own voice. It not only does it do the song justice, but it seems to set the mood and tone for National Ramble, his second album.

I’m not saying that he is plunderising or plagarising the great man’s style, I mean how could you anyway, but if Neil was starting out today, this is perhaps what he might sound like. Perhaps. But, comparisons aside, National Ramble is a really good album. “Tennessee Cross” is full of folky spirals of guitar, spacious enough that you can almost feel the prairie winds blowing through the song, “White Horses in the Woods” is a wonderfully collaborative affair which ebbs and flows between cowboy country and a strange, European chanson sound. Then there are songs like the more relatively upbeat “Star Hawk”, a lilting and lovely way to round the album off.

There is something wonderfully bucolic about the album, it feels a part of the great outdoors or at least its sonic companion, something that seems to celebrate nature, primal and timeless. And in this age of technology and manufactured music, when AI and its artificial acolytes are walking all over the creative world, making such a human and harmonious, natural sounding and nature-infused album might just be the most significant act of rebellion we can ask of any musician.