Neil Young and his recent collaborators, Lukas and Micah Nelson — the sons of country great Willie Nelson — performed an acoustic rendition of their new protest song, “The Monsanto Years,” during an anti-GMO event in Maui this weekend, Stereogum reports.
Just like the song — and forthcoming album of the same name — the Outgrow Monsanto event sought to raise awareness of the agrochemical giant’s unhealthy and environmentally unfriendly practices, especially their propagation of genetically modified foods and seeds.
“The Monsanto Years” specifically looks at the issue from the perspective of a farmer who resorts to growing Monsanto-manufactured crops, but thinks often of his mother and father and the untainted farming traditions they passed down. Young and the Nelson brothers’ performance has an impromptu, communal feel as their steely acoustic guitars overlap over rhythms meted out on the bottom of a bucket.
Later that same day, Young and the Nelson brothers did away with their acoustic guitars and blasted through a rendition of “Down By the River,” off Young and Crazy Horse’s 1969 classic, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. Backed by the bellows of the audience, the performance remained true to the original and Lukas held his own during the enviable — but certainly not easy — task of trading solos with Young.
Young and the Nelson brothers recorded The Monsanto Years at the Teatro theater in Oxnard, California, where Willie Nelson recorded his 1998 LP, Teatro. During the first week, however, only Lukas, Micah and Young’s longtime producer/engineer John Hanlon were in the studio. Working off demos Young had made, Micah recalled to Rolling Stone Hanlon’s instructions: “Don’t learn the songs too well… You want to be able to make all the right fuck-ups.”
When Young arrived, the sessions were similarly spontaneous, with the band setting up as if they were onstage, rather than in a studio. “That gave it this immediacy that kept it really fun and flowing and constantly inspiring,” Micah said. “There wasn’t a lot of sitting around and figuring out what to do. It was kind of like, ‘Go, go, go’ and capture it.'”
The Monsanto Years will be released release on CD, iTunes and PonoMusic on June 29th, with the vinyl version out in August. The trio will also hit the road together for a string of North American dates in July.