The Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Hollies alumnus mixes the personal and the political on his first new album in seven years, with moving results
In comparison to some of his contemporaries and former bandmates, Graham Nash has operated at a more considered pace over recent years. Latest album Now contains his first new material since 2016’s This Path Tonight, an album which itself came after a period of 14 years on from 2002’s Songs For Survivors. In some ways such gaps aren’t a surprise. Nash is now 81 years old and has nothing left to prove, given his previous achievements as a solo artist and member of Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Hollies.
Now is a generous, warm-hearted set of 13 songs, a distillation of his current interests and musical aesthetic. Certain longstanding themes are pursued amid uncomplicated arrangements and clear-sighted melodies. He’s clearly in a good place on a personal, domestic level and makes time to pay tribute to his current wife as well as contemplate other relationships. Yet, for all the personal contentment there is also evidence here that he’s still politically active and invested in other pressing matters, like the environment and social justice. At various points on the album he seems to pause to reflect on his life with a mixture of pride and perhaps surprise at how he’s managed to get this far.
Opening track Right Now is an old school rocker of sorts and sees him in both self-questioning yet resolute mood as he celebrates reaching his current stage of life. A Better Life is classic Nash as he urges action to ensure future generations can enjoy all of the beauty of the world for themselves. It possesses an innocence and purity of spirit and bears a resemblance to the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young hit Our House.
Other songs strike a similar note, namely those dedicated to his wife. Love Of Mine is all delicate vulnerability and bittersweet reflection, while the tender Follow Your Heart sees him openly express gratitude and admiration towards her. Later, he gets the harmonica out for a comfortable meander through It Feels Like Home (“Everything I love is here, you’re everything I ever wanted, an answer to a prayer”). These tracks never feel overly sentimental however, just honest, poignant expressions of happiness.
Yet there is grit and anger among the smoothness. Golden Idols sees him take aim at a certain former American President and his supporters (“They’re just like children who can’t stand losing and the truth is getting in their way”) and Stars & Stripes offers a similarly politically charged moment (“Stars and stripes are out there waving goodbye to all that’s true, I won’t fall for this illusion, just tell me the truth”). He might not be as prolific as his fellow survivor Neil Young but moments like these show that, for all their fallings-out, they still share significant common ground.
Stand Up sees him turn up the volume again as he urges others to take action in supporting fellow human beings and worthy causes (“Rise up, take a stand, lend a hand, if you can”). His former Hollies bandmate Allan Clarke joins him to reminisce on Buddy’s Back, and I Watched It All Come Down sees him address some of the bumps he’s experienced over the course of his life amid flourishing, beaming string arrangements. They’re both touching trips down memory lane, one happy and positive, the other less so.
Now might be a homely, undemanding listen in places but it’s also rewarding, a set of songs that will certainly appeal to long term fans but one that also deserves wider appreciation. It feels like a classic case of Nash making music for himself and if others enjoy it too, well that’s a bonus. Final track When It Comes To You features lines that feel like they should be the key takeouts from the album. “We’re moving forward night and day and at this moment in my life that’s something to say”. Given some of the names that have been sadly lost over recent years, the fact that Nash is still releasing music that moves should be something that is embraced and held dear.