Prairie Wind is being pushed as the third in a trilogy of classic Neil Young acoustic albums, after Harvest and Harvest Moon. They do sound eerily similar. The tracks were written as Young suffered a brain aneurysm, and initially it feels as if he had simply dug out his most beautiful old songs and written new words. However, the familiarity reveals itself to be a clever ploy, as Prairie Wind contrasts simpler days with post-9/11 global panic.
Since Prairie Wind is a return to the soft, lush country-rock sound of Harvest; since Neil Young suffered a brain aneurysm during its recording; since it finds the singer/songwriter reflecting on life and family in the wake of his father's death; and since it's his most cohesive album in a decade, it would seem that all these factors add up to a latter-day masterpiece for Young, but that's not quite the case. Prairie Wind manages to be less than the sum of its parts and the problem isn't a lack of good songs (although it does have a few more clunkers than it should) or a botched concept. Young's decision to revive the country-rock that brought him his greatest popularity never feels like a cynical move -- the music is too warm, comfortable, and friendly to feel like anything but Neil playing to his strengths.