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Review: Neil Young returns to musical roots for heartfelt, quirky covers album 'A Letter Home'

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Neil Young, "A Letter Home" (Reprise)

Neil Young's sporadic concept records aren't for everyone. "A Letter Home" should be.

While still an esoteric venture — Young recorded it in a refurbished 1947 Voice-O-Graph — the songs he chose are familiar ones, making this more accessible than previous out in left field Young releases.

Among the songs: Bob Dylan's "Girl From the North Country," Bruce Springsteen's "My Home Town," Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" and "Crazy," and Gordon Lightfoot's "Early Morning Rain." They are a reflection of Young's roots and musical backbone, made all the more clear by the heartfelt and intimate delivery.

Now, back to the box.

Young, 68, was captivated by the Voice-O-Graph that Jack White had restored and made available at his recording studio in Nashville, Tennessee. Typically used by amateurs to record one song at a time, which is immediately laid down on vinyl, Young decided to cram himself into the phone booth-sized contraption and record an entire record.

The songs sound like they came from another age — complete with scratches, pops and imperfections usually only heard on old vinyl records. Adding to the idiosyncratic approach, Young fashioned the entire record as a letter home to his deceased mother, delivering her a playlist of some of his favourite tunes.

It's clear these songs are a part of Young's musical DNA, and it's almost as if the listener is being invited into his living room for a private concert — delivered from inside a phone booth, of course.

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Follow Scott Bauer at twitter.com/SBauerAP

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