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Albums Of The Week: Graham Nash | Now

The folk-rock icon hasn't lost the fire in his belly on his first studio release in seven years — or his ability to fashion transcendent melodies and rich vocal harmonies.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Now, the aptly titled new studio album from legendary artist Graham Nash, is a stunning collection that stays true to his six-decade mission: Observing the human experience through the lens of a Northern boy and contributing a wealth of songs to the soundtrack of our lives.

The new songs on Now are worthy additions to the canon of a two-time inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The new songs range from the intensely political rallying cry of Stand Up and scorching indictment of MAGA in Golden Idols to the bitterly ironic Stars and Stripes. As Nash says, “just tell me the truth, stop lying and stop trying to create division between people all over the world, just tell me the truth. The stars and stripes are waving, but they’re waving goodbye to the truth.”

There is the fervent hope that we are leaving the kids A Better Life, but there is also the messy ego-driven rock ’n’ roll parade recollection of I Watched It All Go Down (cf. “reflector shades and telegrams at dawn”). At the other end of the rock spectrum is Buddy’s Back, a driving homage and celebration of the enduring influence of both Buddy Holly and The Hollies in Nash’s life, with Hollies co-founder Allan Clarke on harmony vocals. In fact, both Nash and Clarke have recorded this new song (with Nash reciprocating harmony on the upcoming Clarke version), which harkens back to that Christmas 1962, when they named The Hollies.

Photo by Amy Grantham.

The centerpiece of Now is In A Dream, an evocative suite that reimagines Pastoral, a piano theme by Alan Price of The Animals written for the film O Lucky Man! (1973), now incorporating a string quintet recorded live with Nash in Brooklyn. The idea of finding words for Price’s beautiful melody appealed to Nash, “because my life is a dream,” he says. “Since I was 18 years old, I’ve been able to do exactly what I wanted to do with my life, which is insanely lucky, and for which I am grateful. I wake up in the morning, I get on with my life, I check the news around the world, check with my friends, and I write about stuff that I need to write about. I’m a songwriter.”

Heartbeats, heartaches and souls-entwined elevate In A Dream, one of several love songs on the new album, along with Follow Your Heart, Right Now, Love Of Mine, When It Comes To You, and a country-flavored tune co-written decades ago with CSN drummer Joe Vitale, Feels Like Home, that is now seeing light of day. As Nash says, “this is the most personal record that I’ve done.”

Now was produced by Nash and keyboardist Todd Caldwell, who has worked alongside Nash for the better part of a decade. Much of the album’s fretwork is anchored by longtime Nash collaborator, guitarist Shane Fontayne (producer of 2016’s This Path Tonight, Nash’s previous studio album). Caldwell and Fontayne led the band for Graham Nash: Live, recorded in 2019 and released in 2022, in which he revisited the Songs For Beginners and Wild Tales albums in concert settings, each record in its entirety, their songs in familiar sequence.

From Live’s band, guitarist Thad DeBrock and drummer Toby Caldwell are heard on Now, joined by bassist/drummer Adam Minkoff. Caldwell arranged the string quintet for Theme from Pastoral/In A Dream; the same quintet is heard on I Watched It All Go Down. Now was mixed by Grammy winner Kevin Killen and mastered by Grammy winner Bob Ludwig.

Photo by Amy Grantham.

As a historical footnote, the release of Now coincides with the 60th anniversary of the first two British chart singles by The Hollies: Covers of The Coasters(Ain’t That) Just Like Me and Searchin’. Nash’s remarkable body of work as a songwriter would begin with his contributions to The Hollies’ British Invasion opus from 1964 to ’68, including Stop Stop Stop, On A Carousel, Carrie Anne, King Midas In Reverse and Jennifer Eccles, to name a few.

The classic songs that later emerged from the first 20-month union of Crosby, Stills & Nash (& Young) are likewise embedded in our DNA, starting with Nash’s Marrakesh Express, Pre- Road Downs and Lady of the Island from the first Crosby, Stills & Nash LP (1969); and Nash’s iconic Teach Your Children and Our House (for Joni Mitchell) from CSNY’s Déjà Vu (1970). Nash’s Just A Song Before I Go and Wasted On the Way are solidly identified with CSN’s later years.

Nash’s solo career took flight in 1971, with Songs For Beginners (Chicago/We Can Change the World, Military Madness, Better Days, I Used To Be A King, Simple Man); and Wild Tales in 1974 (Prison Song, Oh! Camil, You’ll Never Be the Same). His collaboration with David Crosby (spanning the ’70s-’00s, the longest of any of the CSN partnerships) had many high points, especially the Nash-penned Southbound Train and Immigration Man.

Nash’s lifelong commitment to his work is unwavering. His inspiration is simple: “All the things we stood for, that love is better than hatred, that peace is better than war, that we have to take care of our fellow human beings, because that’s all we have on this planet — those things are still true today. I need to know that I’ve brought something into the world that was positive and not negative.”