On the record

Veteran rocker David Crosby shares thoughts on new album - and some old feuds

New Hampshire Union Leader
November 08. 2017 1:08PM
Two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee David Crosby is on the road with his son, keyboardist James Raymond, and musical friends Mai Agan on bass, Steve DiStanislao on drums, Jeff Pevar on guitar and Michelle Willis on keys and vocals to promote his latest album, “Sky Trails.” 
If you go...
WHO: David Crosby & Friends

WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15

WHERE: Tupelo Music Hall, 10 A St., Derry

TICKETS: $75 to $100

INFO: 437-5100; tupelohall.com

At 76, David Crosby is releasing new music as if he’s a young musician just out of the gate. His new album, “Sky Trails,” produced by his son, James Raymond, is his third collection of new material in four years.

Crosby brings his band to Tupelo Music Hall in Derry on Wednesday, Nov. 15, to promote the album, a diverse set featuring jazz-laced pop, folk, introspective ballads and social commentary.

While the singer-songwriter has recorded dozens of albums since the late ‘60s with the Byrds and on-again, off-again partners Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and Neil Young, he let 20 years lapse between solo albums before releasing “Croz” in 2014, followed by “Lighthouse” last year.

Crosby attributes the burst of creativity in part on the end of Crosby, Stills & Nash, who broke up in 2016 after another bout of feuding. Over the years, acrimony has been as much of a trademark as those three-part harmonies.

“I made a lot of great music with those guys, and I’m grateful for it. But 40 years later when it’s devolved down to just turn on the smoke machine and play your hits, it’s not good enough,” Crosby said in a recent interview. “In order to keep my love of music and keep my heart in the music, I had to choose the music over the paycheck.”

While Crosby would relish another chance to perform as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — who last toured in support of Young’s “Living With War” album in 2006 — leading his own band has fueled a creative rebirth.

“It was a very tough decision. But it freed me up in a very amazing way artistically, when I felt that I was back on my own, and I could go in any direction I wanted,” he said. “And I’m happy with the result. I’m proud of the result. “Croz” and “Lighthouse” and “Sky Trails” are three of the best records I’ve ever made as far as I know.”

Both “Croz” and “Sky Trails” were produced by Raymond. Having been given up for adoption, Raymond was 20 when he met Crosby. Since then, the two have been regular musical partners. Since the late ‘90s, much of Crosby’s work has included Raymond, a keyboard player and composer who formed CPR with his father and guitarist Jeff Pevar, another longtime Crosby collaborator who also plays on the new album.

“He really blossomed. Once I started writing with him, he just kept getting better and kept getting better and kept getting better. Now he’s just a spectacular writer and a really, really fine producer,” Crosby said of Raymond.

Like the 1998 CPR eponymous debut and 2008’s “Crosby/Nash” album, “Sky Trails” features several songs Raymond wrote or co-wrote with Crosby, including the album’s first single, “She’s Got to Be Somewhere.” The funky keyboard-driven tune could be mistaken for an outtake from Steely Dan’s 1980 album “Gaucho” if not for Crosby’s distinctive voice.

“That’s a compliment, man. You can’t do much better than that,” Crosby said. “‘Gaucho’ is probably my favorite record of theirs. I go back and forth. Sometimes it’s ‘Aja.’ But I think I like ‘Gaucho’ even more.”

“She’s Got to be Somewhere” is the album’s most pop friendly song. Of all his band mates, Crosby’s songs have usually been the ones out on the fringe: the Byrds’ “Guinevere,” the CSN&Y classic “Almost Cut My Hair.”

Asked about the jazz influences that flow into several tracks on “Sky Trails,” Crosby flinches a bit. He doesn’t have much use for labels.

“We’re singer-songwriters, right? And we think of it as just using all the tools. We like more complex chords and more intricate harmony/melody relationships,” he said. “We like words that are actually about something. We know we’re jazz-influenced, but we don’t really think of it as that.”

While he enjoys newfound freedom, Crosby still circles back to the past. With Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, he recorded Joni Mitchell’s “Deja Vu” in 1970. For “Sky Trails,” he covered another Mitchell tune, “Amelia.”

“I’ve wanted to sing that particular song of hers because it’s so beautifully written. It’s a pretty daunting prospect to try to sing a song that Joni’s sung,” Crosby said. “That sets the bar awfully high. And she sings it in a more ornate way than I do. I sing it very simply, just singing the words, no vocal pyrotechnics at all. But I love the song, and that’s how I felt it should be treated.”

If Crosby and his band mates ever regroup, they might consider performing “Capitol,” a biting indictment of national politics Crosby wrote that has a sentiment they probably all share.

“If we had CSN&Y together, it would have been a great platform for it. It’s pretty obvious how I got to there. This Congress has the lowest approval rating in the history of the United States. Ever,” Crosby said. “And they richly deserve it. They’re abysmally bad. They don’t do anything for the people who elected them at all.”

Getting Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young to perform the song would require a bunch of guys to make amends. Nash has said he’s fed up with how Crosby has treated him, and Young said in 2014 that he would never work with the band again after Crosby called Young’s girlfriend, actress Daryl Hannah, a “purely poisonous predator” after Young left his wife of 37 tears. (As for Stills, he was last heard harmonizing with Judy Collins, recording and touring with the namesake of his Crosby, Stills & Nash hit “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”)

Crosby, who has publicly apologized to Young, said he would only regroup with Crosby and Nash if Young was on board, too.

“I don’t think he’s gonna ’cause he’s pissed at me. And I can’t do anything about that,” Crosby said.

Meanwhile, the fans remain.

“I get an email or a Tweet every day, usually several, saying, ‘Hey, will you people get over it and get back to work? We need you. This is the time. You’re a voice for this nation, and for our side of progressive politics. And we’re in a terrible time. And we need you to get off your ass and do your job.’ I don’t know what to tell them. I agree.”

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