Neil Young is making his first appearance with longtime fan Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show" on Monday night in a joint session with Jack White, Young’s collaborator on his latest album “A Letter Home.”
The album features songs by Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Phil Ochs, Gordon Lightfoot and others that Young describes as “the roots of who I am musically.”
The songs were all recorded in a 1947 Voice-O-Graph booth recording machine on which people used to pay 35 cents to make their own records or audio letters to send to family and friends.
White had restored and set up the device in his Third Man Records complex in Nashville, and Young said he was intrigued while visiting White about a year ago watching people off the street come in and use it.
“They’d come in and sing a song,” Young, 68, told Pop & Hiss over the weekend. “I thought, ‘This is cool. Look at these people — everybody’s making records.’ I said to Jack, ‘I could probably make an album in this thing.’ He said, ‘Really?’”
The recordings are monaural and run no more than the booth’s maximum running time of 2 minutes 20 seconds. Young said he loved the no-frills way of recording songs, including Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country,” Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” and “If You Could Read My Mind,” Nelson’s “Crazy” and “On the Road Again” and Ochs’ “Changes,” many of which he performed in acclaimed solo shows in New York and Los Angeles in recent months.
“It’s all about sitting down and playing the song, and doing the whole thing,” Young said. “There’s no production, it’s just a performance. It’s about the essence of the songs.” He also filmed the sessions for a DVD of the project, which is being released May 27.
The title reflects the opening track, in which Young spoke to his mother, Rassy Young, describing what he and White were doing.
As for what viewers should expect out of his appearance with Fallon, who gained notoriety early in his career on “Saturday Night Live” doing his Neil Young impersonation, Young just laughed. “That should be fun.”
A full report on “A Letter Home” is coming soon in Calendar.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times