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Only on MSN: Neil Young’s Country Detour

The veteran rocker recalls his International Harvesters band

MSN Music

The latest archival release from Neil Young's ongoing and ambitious reissue project offers fresh proof to the axiom that timing is everything: Today, the bridge between country music and mainstream pop and rock is well-traveled as Nashville's commercial strength invites pop, rock and even rap stars to try a little twang. Yet Neil Young's decision in the mid-1980s to revisit his own longstanding affection for country roots was greeted with commercial skepticism and even critical scorn when he hit the road with the International Harvesters.

Young's new live album, "A Treasure," finally surfaces the musical evidence of his mission with the Harvesters, a hand-picked crew of great country musicians that backed him on his 1984-1985 U.S. tour. Never mind that Young had flashed country accents in his writing and playing with Buffalo Springfield, or that his solo career reached a commercial tipping point with 1971's country-rock classic, "Harvest." Young had famously greeted that album's success as placing him "in the middle of the road . . . so I headed for the ditch," retreating from country for most of the next decade.

In this interview, taped at Chicago's Ann Nathan Gallery in early May, the iconic singer-songwriter tells interviewer Joel Stewart about the genesis for the project and recalls the musicians' musicians that comprised the Harvesters two overlapping lineups -- an honor roll of musicians including the late Ben Keith (pedal steel, dobro) and Rufus Thibodeaux (fiddle) alongside living legends Spooner Oldham and Hargus "Pig" Robbins (piano), Tim Drummond and Joe Allen (bass), Karl Himmel (drums) and Anthony Crawford (guitar, banjo, mandolin).

"A Treasure" is being released on June 14 and follows Young's recent pattern of offering fans multiple versions, from standard CD to vinyl, digital downloads and a deluxe CD/Blu-Ray edition augmented with video and images.