The title track of Neil Young’s breakthrough album Harvest is a bit of a deep cut. Never released as a single, it has never got the radio play that the hits from Harvest have received over the years. This is especially true since Young’s last hit of any size was “Harvest Moon,” an unrelated song that further obscured the original.
His new single is not the first time Canadian singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright has covered “Harvest.” He has recorded a couple of versions since 2018. It seems to be his favourite Neil Young song. This new version was recorded for his upcoming album, Folkocracy, a set of covers of folk songs, which Wainwright is recording with famous friends. For “Harvest,” he’s joined by fellow Neil Young fan Andrew Bird and the son of Young’s former bandmate, Chris Stills.
The cover opens with Bird’s fiddle, giving this country song and even more rustic feel than the original. The fiddle fades and the song proper begins with just Wainwright’s voice and Bird’s strummed fiddle. After that opening, though, this new Wainwright version sticks pretty closely to the original. Wainwright’s voice is deeper and less fragile than Young’s, and Bird and Stills provide backing vocals, but the backing instrumentation echoes Young’s original even if it isn’t exactly same.
The big difference is Andrew Bird’s fiddle solo midway through, which fills in what is a straight-forward instrumental section in the original. Otherwise it’s a pretty faithful and reverent cover, buoyed by the trio’s harmonies. The love of the song is very apparent. Check it out: