Pegi Young & The Survivors
Baltimore Thrush Records
When you’ve spent more than half your life married to the same person and then the marriage abruptly ends, where do you go from there? If you’re Pegi Young, you take the ball and run with it full throttle by telling the story of the breakup with ex-husband Neil Young through song. Young’s cathartic “soundtrack of the seven stages of grief,” Raw, will resonate with anyone who has ever been through the disintegration of a relationship. The 12 songs, 5 of which are covers, run the gamut from despair and anger to hope, strength and forgiveness. Produced by Elliot Mazer and recorded at Broken Arrow Ranch, Young’s home in Northern California, the jilted songstress cuts right to the chase in the opening lines of the first track, “Why,” asking “Why’d you have to ruin my life? Why’d you have to be so mean?” This track, as well as several others, was cowritten with keyboardist Spooner Oldham and guitarist Kelvyn Holly, both revered Muscle Shoals veterans.
Young’s refreshingly rich, alto vocals add a depth of authenticity to the poignant, painfully honest lyrics. The self-explanatory titles, including “Gave My Best To You,” “Too Little Too Late,” “A Thousand Years” and “Lonely” (most cowritten with Oldham and Holly) all appear early in the record, with worthy covers of Otis Clay’s “Trying To Live My Life Without You” (written by Eugene Williams), Randy VanWarmer’s “Just When I Needed You Most” and Ray Charles’ “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind.” But the less vulnerable, stronger stuff shines through later on with “You Won’t Take My Laugh Away,” “Up To Here,” “These Boots Were Made for Walkin'” (written by Lee Hazlewood and famously recorded as a feminist anthem by Nancy Sinatra) and a stripped-down, soul-searching version of Don Henley’s “Heart of the Matter,” a perfect full-circle ending as Young pointedly confesses, through the lyrics, “It’s about forgiveness, even if you don’t love me anymore.”