Review: Neil Young Channels More Cranky Rage, Ageless Idealism With Promise of the Real

Our take on 'The Visitor,' his second album with the heartland rockers

Neil Young's second album with heartland rockers Promise of the Real is 'The Visitor.' Credit: Rich Fury/Invision/AP

Neil Young's latest LP with heartland-rock band Promise of the Real opens with "Already Great," where the guitars cut like rusty plows and anti-Trump invective becomes bitter tribute: "You're the promise land/The helping hand/No wall. No hate. No fascist U.S.A." That sense of cranky rage and ageless idealism are all over The Visitor. On the somber folk shuffle "Almost Always," he complains about "livin' with a game show host," while the forcefully hard-grooving "Fly By Night Deal" is sung (partly) in the voice of a pipeline foreman bringing wreckage to the wilderness. Young detours into blues on "Diggin' a Whole" and absurdist eccentricity on the eight-minute "Carnival," spinning a surreal circus allegory over a south-of-the-border saunter. Even weirder is "Children of Destiny," a ragefully didactic sing-along recorded with a 56-piece orchestra that sounds like a grunge anthem lost in the soundtrack to a Disney musical. But the album ends on well-worn ground with the folk prayer "Forever," the kind of song he's been writing for decades, stretching into 10 minutes of frayed hope for his fellow man. "Earth is like a church without a preacher/The people have to pray for themselves," he sings, true to a messy vision of democracy that remains as endearing as ever.