Graham Nash – This Path Tonight (Blue Castle)

graham-nashThis is Nash’s first solo effort in nearly 14 years.  And there is something of a question over it.  Why now?  What’s driving the need to come to the surface again?  True, former colleagues like Neil Young and David Crosby have been motivated to speak out against the sad state of America, and the world for that matter.

After all, this is the place they fought so hard to correct in the 60’s and 70’s.  Ironic, isn’t it, that the same baby boomers that challenged global corporatisation and the scourge of American empirical growth are now seated in the same board rooms and leading the charge – or at least consumerist slaves to their products and political rhetoric?  But for Nash the fight isn’t about politics, drugs or big corporates.  Not even war – unless you include his own internal battles.  For his placard, Nash looks those universal themes of love, loss, and finality to paint his slogans.

Now 74 years old, the former Hollies singer and Americana superstar can still offer something of a unique perspective on all three of these subjects, partly because many others his age just simply aren’t writing any more – Leonard Cohen being the most notable exception.  Sure, back in those Hollies days it was all about young love and flirting under umbrellas but what about now?   Looking back on families, relationships, loves lost, ruined by stupid acts or bad decisions.  And what about those that survived it all?

Now, I’m not saying Nash has all the answers but he does like to dwell deeply on the questions of personal legacy and direction. The album opens with the title track, acknowledging that he really doesn’t know where he’s going any more, like he’s just going through the motions without a destination.  You get the feeling he’s become some kind of ghost of his former self.  “I try to answer all that’s asked/ I try my best to be myself, but wonder who’s behind this mask.”
Of course, there’s a backstory.  A few months prior to this album’s release Nash revealed that he’d separated from Susan Sennett, his wife of 38 years.  He then went on to claim never work again with David Crosby, essentially closing down 47-years of CSN.   And for the first time since his late teens he’s writing on his own terms and conditions.  No band rules or record execs dictating every move.  At some level, this is a grumpy old man boxing at shadows.
So with something of a leap into the clouds, Nash gets out of his comfort zone going a bit gushy on a self-revelatory ballad to his new girlfriend.  Myself At Last is a gentle, folky tune that begins worrying, “Is my future just my past?” but ends satisfied with a new path.   He’s in his happy place, at least romantically.

But there are a few expected bittersweet references to earlier glories playing with CSN&Y and The Hollies (or possibly his earlier New Castle rock’n’roll days) of the sun-bleached Golden Days – “I used to be in a band, made up of my friends… when music had no end.”  But it does, doesn’t it?  And the question remains, as put on the closer Encore, “How’re you gonna feel if the music dies?”

If you need to hammer home the mortality question then look to Back Home mourning slide-guitar groaning and ethereal, gospel vocals for the cue.  You can’t help noticing just a slight hint of the old CSN backing harmonies in there, too.  “Take your time, ’cause time will take you… Mother Earth will soon be calling you back home.”

He might be in his 70’s but on wax you’d never know.  Time hasn’t really aged him in that respect.  In fact he still sings with a fresh, sweet tone.  Others of the same vintage would have dropped a few keys or sounded rougher around the edges these days.  But not Nash.  he could probably still put out pretty credible versions of the early CSN hits like Marrakesh Express or Carry On, even now.

While his contemporaries are banging on about the decay of the universe Nash is more interested in his own decay and rebirth.  So for that alone, it’s worth listening, if only to glimpse your future.

Tim Gruar

Published on http://www.13thfloor.co.nz / https://13thfloor.co.nz/reviews/cd-reviews/graham-nash-this-path-tonight-blue-castle/

 

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