Neil Young dropped two major pieces of information during an acceptance speech at the Grammy Honors party earlier this week; that he’s got a new lo-fi album coming out in March, around the same time he’s set to launch his much anticipated high fidelity music service at this year’s SXSW.

The Canadian music legend was in attendance at the Grammy’s annual Producers and Engineers ceremony in LA to receive the President’s Merit award, and as Rolling Stone reports, during his “epic speech” at the winner’s podium, the 68-year-old confirmed the release of Pono, his long-developed and much touted iPod killer.

“We’re trying to make music sound technically better, and that’s what I want to do. So we have a player that plays whatever the musicians made digitally, and that’s going to come out. We’re announcing that at SXSW… it’s called Pono, and that’s my commercial,” said Young at the end of his acceptance speech.

Described as a ‘high-resolution, studio-quality, cloud-based digital music ecosystem’, Pono is both a digital download service and a dedicated portable music player, as Young publicly revealed on American network television back in 2012.

Information on the delayed Pono launch kept trickling in through 2013, including details on how the high definition audio will focus on outstripping the common music consumer’s digestion of compressed mp3s (through the likes of iTunes, YouTube, Spotify, Pandora et al.), as well as Pono getting the tick of approval from some music industry bigwigs. Including Warner, Universal, and Sony, who confirmed in September last year that “three to five thousand albums had already been converted to the new high-end Pono format.

(Image: Young unveiling the Pono player on The Late Show With David Letterman)

Young has already spoken at length about how delivering a super-detailed sonic experience will revolutionise the music industry, and elaborated on the point further during the President’s Merit Award speech, likening the current audio standard to being a poor reproduction, a problem which Pono aims to fix.

“Digital is not bad. But Xerox is not good. I always like to say Picasso was really happy to see original Picassos everywhere, but when he went into some places and saw Xeroxes of Picassos, it didn’t make him as happy…

The time has come for us to recover and to bring music back to the people in a way that they can recognize it in their souls – through the window of their souls, their ears. So they can feel and vibrate and so that they can get goosebumps. We cherish those fucking goosebumps. We really need those.”

Along with the launch of Pono, March will also see the musical activist releasing a brand new studio album, entitled A Letter Home, which the singer-songwriter described as “one of the lowest-tech experiences I’ve ever had,” in a follow-up interview with Rolling Stone

Interestingly, the album is coming out through Jack White’s Third Man Records which have led some to speculate – as Consequence Of Sound points out – that it is a rumoured covers album between the former White Stripe leader and Young. Young described the new album as “one of the lowest-tech experiences I’ve ever had.”

A rumour based off a visit by the latter to Third Man Records Studios in Nashville to cut a track on Record Store Day last year. A cover of Bert Jansch’s ‘Needle of the Death’ inside Jack White’s very own ‘Do It Yourself’ vinyl booth.

But a post on Young’s Facebook page dismissed the possibility of “false rumours” regarding the two teaming up for “a record of duets as has been erroneously posted on various outlets. We are certain those rumours have no basis in truth.”

While A Letter Home may not feature Jack White, a post on the Third Man Records website does describe the new LP as “an unheard collection of rediscovered songs from the past recorded on ancient electro-mechanical technology captures and unleashes the essence of something that could have been gone forever.”

Could it be that Neil Young’s new album was recorded entirely on the vintage equipment and music attractions that populate Jack White’s Nashville record shop-come-studio and novelty lounge?

And what better way for Young to show off the fidelity of his Pono system in recapturing those ‘f’kn goosebumps’ in listeners than with a red-raw, lo-tech album of old school covers? We’ll have to wait a few months more until all is revealed.

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