Lumbering grooves come marching through the air around us as a passionate wail echoes their pain in the background. Suddenly, an elegant but rustic vocal enters the fold, and an acoustic melody replaces the electrified one. “I want to live, I want to give / I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold,” we’re told in a melodic drawl, but the voice on the other end of the speaker isn’t Neil Young’s. It’s coming from none other than Cree rockers Midnight Shine and their sterling singer, who in this song, praises the pastoral rhythm of the group’s muse while imparting unto us an emotion that is anything but recycled.
A harmonica’s tortured hum blisters against the pressure of the bassline, which gets too large too fast – but not for long. We’re back in the verses as quickly as we departed from them, and if you’re a fan of the original “Heart of Gold,” you might not be expecting the tempo to move with the agility that Midnight Shine give it in this single. It’s as if they’re chasing after something here; there’s an element that’s missing from the mix, and try as the strings might, they’re not able to fill a void that only Neil Young’s pipes could.
Just when it’s starting to feel like we’re listening to a band that is infatuated with replicating “Heart of Gold” as immaculately as one could without borrowing players from the first recording, the words we’re hearing turn from English to Cree, and the song takes on a different emotiveness that we had once thought impossible for it to attain. Neil isn’t here, but he doesn’t need to be at this point – Midnight Shine are playing to their own fiddle now, and giving the lyrics a context that they would have never had were they not transformed into the beautiful native tongue of the singer.
I won’t try and sell you on the structure and symbolism of “Heart of Gold” as it’s been relayed by Midnight Shine for us in their latest music video and single. When we get down to brass tacks, it feels like something that the group wanted to make both as a tip of the hat to one of their heroes and also as a means of expressing their experimental edge in a way that few of us could deem controversial or ineffectual. Midnight Shine want to get a reaction out of their fans and the critics who might have dismissed their early work with this track, and having given it my full attention over the last week, I think that they accomplished exactly what they set out to here.
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