Kent, Ohio- Neil Young, in an interview at the ASCAP music cafe during the annual Sundance Film Festival spoke of a young Marine and Iraq war vet that he had met a year earlier, “He sings with a lot of heart. With a kick-ass band, his music could reach many ears and hearts”. That was 2008. Now, nearly 4 years later, the Cincinnati songwriter and war hero, Josh Hisle is climbing online music charts in the US and Canada with a borrowed hit and a borrowed band.
In October Hisle released a cover of the Neil Young-penned CSNY classic “Ohio” with friend and collaborator Ryan Kralik who hails from Kent, Ohio, the birthplace of the acclaimed protest song. As for the band, they recruited Rick Rosas (Neil Young’s own bass player) and Dave Krusen, former Pearl Jam drummer and the skin man behind their ground-breaking album, Ten.
The track, recorded over several days, in 3 states, on widely varied recording mediums (including an iPhone) was completed on October 12th and was out just 5 days later.
“There’s nothing I did before ‘Ohio’ that would be in the same category — and very little since. It’s a kind of a political song as well as a feeling song, and it’s dated to a particular incident, kinda like ‘Rockin’ in the Free World.’ I just don’t write that many of them”, Neil Young said of the song that’s been on countless lists of the greatest protest songs of all time, usually placed at #1. And Young clearly holds a fondness for the recent update by Hisle, Kralik & Co since he posted the song on his website the day it was released. Ryan Kralik stated in an interview with a Cleveland music magazine, “We didnt even tell Neil’s people that we were doing the song cause we assumed it was just gonna be a cool thing for our fans and folks around Ohio but the day we released it I got an email and it said they were just letting us know that the song was up on neilyoung.com. I called Josh and told him and he kinda paused and said, “well I guess he didn’t hate it”.
The single has been trending daily on iTunes and other online retailers with virtually no press coverage and both Hisle and Kralik said that the touring schedules are filling a little easier the last couple months mostly due to the groundswell success of the protest cover. “I just wrapped up an east coast tour opening for (Stephen) Stills and (Ryan) Kralik is putting together a “Live From Kent State” show for next year that we want to webcast and we’re both getting emails from booking agents every day now so we may do some more touring coming up soon”.
Hisle and Kralik, who are both releasing albums in the next 2 months have toured together and done various protest rallies and charity benefits in recent years say that they met because of Neil Young when Kralik read an article in Rolling Stone about Hisle’s appearance in the film CSNY Deja Vu. “I said, hey he’s from Ohio and Neil likes him so he can’t be bad”. A few months later they coheadlined “Songs of Protest Kent State” which Young’s camp helped promote. “We raised some money for some hurt vets and saw a ton of people who really cared. I been going back and doing shows with Ryan every year since. Kent’s a great town and they haven’t forgotten.
A portion of all the Ohio single proceeds benefit the Kent State May 4th Center Scholarship Fund.