Certain Songs #1241: Neil Young – “Cripple Creek Ferry”

Album: After The Gold Rush
Year: 1970

Recorded in Neil’s home studio in Topanga, on March 17, 1970.

The last song on After The Gold Rush is an admittedly minor song, especially when compared to the title track (which I’ll write about when we get to Live Rust, I promise), or even songs like “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” and “When You Dance, I Can Really Love,” the two singles from the album.

And at 1:34, it’s one of the shortest songs in his entire canon, and one of the shortest songs I’m writing about by anybody, and really is more of a fragment than anything, almost a goof.

And yet, I totally love the melody line, free and easy, with Neil and Nils and Billy and Danny singing together for the last time on any record, a bit of lightness after the mostly dark After The Gold Rush.

Hey, hey
Cripple Creek ferry
Butting through
The overhanging trees
Make way
For the Cripple Creek ferry
The waters going down
It’s a mighty tight


My favorite part is the pause before “squeeze,” just enough of a vocal arrangement to make “Cripple Creek Ferry” slightly less than totally tossed off: someone somewhere — I’ll vote Neil, because of course — had to come up with that pause, and make sure everybody else followed suit, turning “Cripple Creek Ferry” into enough of a song to close one of his most epochal albums.

“Cripple Creek Ferry”

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