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Neil Young’s ‘Americana’ Direction Originally Threw Crazy Horse’s Poncho Sampedro

Neil Young + Crazy Horse
Archie Carpenter, Getty Images

Neil Young reactivated the legendary Crazy Horse band for his latest record, ‘Americana,’ and guitarist Frank “Pancho” Sampedro says the direction they went with the new music took him by surprise.

Sampedro, who joined the band in 1975 and has backed Young on several records, tells ABC News Radio that he’s learned to trust Young’s lead, but even still the idea of playing American folk songs initially threw him.

He explains, “I was so ready just to start jamming and having fun and all of a sudden Neil started coming up with American folk songs. It was a little different at first, but we played ‘em just like we would play any other song and they came out with our mark on ‘em.”

The guitarist says Young definitely had a vision for the record, and the group quickly adjusted. Of working with Young, he adds, “When Neil walks in the room, everything gets better. He has a tremendous outlook on what we’re doing, and he’s always … 10 steps ahead of everybody in the room … It’s just a matter of following his lead and everything will be fine.”

Sampedro says one of his favorites from the ‘Americana’ album is the band’s rendition of ‘Gallow’s Pole,’ known to many fans from the version Led Zeppelin performs on their third album. He recalls, “When Neil pulled it out and we did it, I had no idea it was that song. It didn’t sound anything like it. When I listen to it now, it’s one of the more different-sounding songs on the record. And I really like it, [it’s] so opposite of Led Zeppelin’s version.”

The group is hitting several festivals this summer, but they just announced a full-fledged fall tour in support of ‘Americana.’ Sampedro also hints that Crazy Horse has been working with Young on another album of original tracks that they may get a chance to finish soon.

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