Let me get to the point right away. Graham Nash sounds absolutely amazing on Now, his seventh solo album and first in seven years, which came out last Friday (May 19). Prior to Now, sadly, I only knew Nash as a brilliant member of Crosby, Stills & Nash, sometimes enhanced by Neil Young, as well The Hollies. Unlike Young and to some extent Crosby, I didn’t follow Nash’s solo career, which he launched in 1971. That will change now – no pun intended!
“I find myself in between totally in love and totally pissed off,” Nash told Billboard in what could be called a perfect summary of the album. The feelings of love refer to artist and photographer Amy Grantham who Nash married in April 2019 after leaving his second wife, American voice actress Susan Sennett in 2016. The “pissed” aspect reflects Nash’s activist side, which is still burning in his belly, 50-plus years after he wrote Chicago to support the so-called “Chicago Eight” who were charged with conspiracy over anti-Vietnam War protests disrupting the 1968 Democratic National Convention in the windy city.
Let’s take a closer look at Nash’s new set of songs. He kicks it off with what essentially is the album’s title track Right Now. The nice mid-tempo rocker also became the lead single on February 21. In a press release record label BMG issed at the time, Nash said, “I believe that my new album Now is the most personal one I have ever made.” I particularly love the guitar action by Shane Fontayne and Thad DeBrock, as well as the work by Todd Caldwell, Nash’s longtime keyboardist who also produced the album.
On A Better Life, Nash asks parents to leave a better life for their children. The inter-generational message is somewhat reminiscent of Teach Your Children, a song Nash wrote in 1968 while still being a member of The Hollies. It first appeared in March 1970 on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà Vu album. Nash’s vocals sound sweet, especially when he harmonizes with himself!
On the country-flavored Stars & Stripes, a tune with a CSN vibe and beautiful pedal steel work by DeBrock, Nash muses about the seemingly never-ending conflict and division among people. At the same time, he’s not entirely pessimistic. “Thank God that I do live in America – a very beautiful country with many faults, and so much more going for it.” Nash told Variety. “I know that here that I have the right to speak my mind, even if people don’t agree with me.” Let’s hope that will always continue to be the case!
Stand Up, a second single that appeared ahead of the album, is another tune revealing Nash’s activist side by asking people to play an active role in society, not sit on the sidelines: Stand up for what you believe/Stand up for those you love/Stand up for what you want/Stand up for what you need/stand up, take a stand/ lend a hand, if you can.
Buddy’s Back is a beautiful tribute to the amazing Buddy Holly. Appropriately, the tune features vocals by Allan Clarke, who together with Nash co-founded a duo in the late 1950s, which in 1962 evolved into The Deltas, a band that in December of the same year renamed themselves as The Hollies. The name reflected their admiration for Hollie. Obviously, the tune’s Buddy Holly vibe isn’t a coincidence. Man, I love this!
The last track I’d like to call out is I Watched It All Come Down. According to Billboard, the album’s oldest track addresses Nash’s “occasionally turbulent relationships with Crosby, Stills and Young.” Nash explained, “Basically, it’s about my delight with the music that we made all these years and dissatisfaction because we could’ve done more.” The pretty string quintet arranged by Cladwell gives the tune a chamber pop feel.
“I just want people to know you can still rock at 81,” Nash said to Billboard. “I’m 81 now, for f–k’s sake! Holy sh-t! And I’m very happy in my life. I’ve been around a long time, as you know. I’ve made some fine music in my life, with my fantastic musical partners. And I feel there’s still more of it coming.” Here’s a Spotify link to the album:
And, btw, Nash doesn’t keep it to new music only. Since mid-April, he has been on the road for the Sixty Years of Songs & Stories Tour. I completely missed it, including the recent opportunity to see him in New York City where he played City Winery for three consecutive nights! Upcoming dates in June include gigs in California, Arizona and Colorado. The current schedule is here.
Sources: Wikipedia; Billboard; BMG press release; Variety; YouTube; Spotify