Are You Ready for the Country (song)

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"Are You Ready for the Country?"
Song by Neil Young from the album Harvest
Released February 1, 1972
Genre Country rock
Length 3:33
Label Reprise
Writer(s) Neil Young
Producer(s)
Harvest track listing
"Heart of Gold"
(4)
"Are You Ready for the Country?"
(5)
"Old Man"
(6)
"Are You Ready for the Country?"
Single by Waylon Jennings
from the album Are You Ready for the Country
B-side "So Good Woman"
Released November 20, 1976
Genre Country rock
Label RCA
Writer(s) Neil Young
Producer(s)
Waylon Jennings singles chronology
"Can't You See"
(1976)
"Are You Ready for the Country"
(1976)
"Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)"
(1977)

"Are You Ready for the Country?" is a song written by Neil Young and released on his 1972 Harvest album. The track features Young on piano backed by the studio band dubbed The Stray Gators, comprising Jack Nitzsche on slide guitar,[2][3] Ben Keith on pedal steel guitar,[3] Tim Drummond on bass,[2] and Kenny Buttrey on drums. Backing vocals on the track are by David Crosby and Graham Nash.[2] The recording was made in a studio set up in a barn on Young's ranch.[3][4]

Lyrics and music[edit]

According to Sam Inglis, the "country" in the title is never made explicit, and while certainly not a country like Belgium and it seems like it could be in the United States south like contemporary Young songs "Southern Man" and "Alabama," the lyrics are not explicitly political like those songs.[3] Rather than addressing issues like racism, the lyrics of "Are You Ready for the Country" are more about generalized dread.[3] Lyrics like "I was talkin' to the preacher, said, 'God was on my side'/Then I ran into the hangman, he said, 'It's time to die'" imply that there is more to the story, and perhaps a more interesting backstory, than what is explicitly stated, and hint at an organized religion theme.[4][2] The title may be Young asking his audience if they are willing to follow him into country music, although Inglis states that the arrangement is more blues than country.[3]

Allmusic critic Matthew Greenwald states that the arrangement provides a sense of whimsy, highlighting Young's "funky" piano and Nitzsche's "lazy" slide guitar.[5] Ken Bielen describes the melody as "punchy" and says it works well with the song's "sing-a-long vocal character."[2] Bielen also comments on the "rustic" quality added by Nitzsche's slide guitar.[2]

Reception[edit]

Rolling Stone Magazine critic John Mendelsohn said the song seemed like "an in-joke throwaway intended for the amusement of certain of Neil's superstar pals."[6]

Waylon Jennings version[edit]

The song was released as a single by American country music artist Waylon Jennings in 1976, the second single from the album named after the song, Are You Ready for the Country. The Jennings single reached #7 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart.[7]

Chart performance[edit]

Waylon Jennings[edit]

Chart (1976–77) Peak
position
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks 7
Canadian RPM Country Tracks 3

Hank Williams, Jr. featuring Eric Church[edit]

Chart (2015–16) Peak
position
US Country Airplay (Billboard)[8] 46

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Harvest". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-07-21. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Bielen, K. (2008). "The Words and Music of Neil Young". Praeger. p. 21. ISBN 9780275999025. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Inglis, S. (2015). Harvest. Bloomsbury. pp. 84–87. ISBN 9780826414953. 
  4. ^ a b Williamson, N. (2002). Journey Through the Past: The Stories Behind the Classic Songs of Neil Young. Hal Leonard. pp. 40–41. ISBN 9780879307417. 
  5. ^ Greenwald, M. "Are You Ready for the Country?". Allmusic. Retrieved 2015-07-21. 
  6. ^ Mendelsohn, John (March 30, 1972). "Neil Young Harvest > Album Review". Rolling Stone (105). Archived from the original on 13 October 2004. Retrieved 2015-07-21. 
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 175. 
  8. ^ "Hank Williams, Jr. – Chart history" Billboard Country Airplay for Hank Williams, Jr..