Poncho Sampedro is a humble man. Throughout a half-hour discussion, the rhythm guitarist for Crazy Horse proudly acknowledges limitations with his instrument, limitations with his band’s sound and limitations with his own ability to recite the lyrics of any of the Neil Young songs that he’s been playing for more than 30 years.
“I try to pick up on the words, but unfortunately I’m not that good at it. And so there’s a lot of his songs I have my own words for,” he says. “I can’t sing one whole song all the way through, I don’t think.”
Even if he went to a karaoke bar and somebody signed him up for a rock radio staple like “Powderfinger”? “I can make it through the first and second verse, I think,” he says.
But to say that Sampedro is humble doesn’t mean he is lacking in confidence. In fact, he says that confidence is the key to his success and the reason that some of the elementary rhythms he has committed to tape are such classics.
“If you’re confident that you’re going to go up there and make it from the beginning of the set until the end, I think good things will happen,” he says. “If you are worried, you’re going to have a hard time.”
A lot of it has to do with just feeling the music, he says.
“If we approach it with an open mind, somehow on a soul level, we connect,” he says.
That confidence and dedication to following a feeling is all over the new albums that Neil Young and Crazy Horse released this year. Though tracks like “Oh Susannah” and “This Land is Your Land” on this spring’s “Americana” album are standards, there is nothing standard about them in the hands of these four guys.
“We just have one sound and we can’t get away from even if we try,” says Sampedro with a laugh.
And with this fall’s double-album they’re even more themselves, as they get far out on the 27-minute jam haze of “Driftin’ Back.” All of the material benefits from the assured approach of a band that just knows how to play off each other. But don’t confuse confidence or feel with perfection.
“There is a place where I play and I kind of walk through the clam fields for a while, and then Neil does the same thing,” recounts Sampedro. “I even mentioned it to him. I said, ‘Neil, if you listen to it, there are two spots where both of us are lost and we could clip that out easily, it’s just a few seconds.’ And he said, ‘Well, then they wouldn’t know how we got to the next place.'”
Real Neil on fake Neil
What does Neil Young say about Jimmy Fallon’s impersonation of him? Sampedro says the singer is a fan.
“He thinks that Jimmy does him great. He goes, ‘God, he has it down!’ But I think it makes him laugh. I don’t think it ever really bothered him.”
Don’t call me Frank
Sometimes Poncho Sampedro is credited on Crazy Horse albums with the name he was born with, Frank.
“I had a place in Mexico and everybody down there called me Poncho because that’s the nickname for Frank. Francisco is Poncho. And then Neil at one point in his organization had three different Franks working for him, and everyone started getting confused as to what Frank said what. I just said, ‘Just call me Poncho from now on, like they do in Mexico,’ and that’s how it started in America and it just stuck with me, and I really like the name.”
If you go
Neil Young and Crazy Horse
Monday, 7:30 p.m.
TD Garden, 100 Legends Way, $72-$255, 800-745-3000