New collection of songs shows Nash’s songwriting is undimmed.
There was a time when the ambition of a rock and roll band was to do as well as they could for their brief period in the spotlight – a year or eighteen months might see a string of singles and an album or two – making just enough money to start up a hairdressing business when the fame was gone. That or go on the cabaret circuit and sing to the chicken in a basket crowd. There were a few who chose to take neither route – trusting to their abilities to carry them on to a full-time life in music. Graham Nash is one such – having survived The Hollies and lived through the trials and tribulations of all the permutations possible in Crosby Stills Nash and Young. Through all those post-Hollies days though there have been solo outings as well, ‘Now‘ is the first since 2016’s ‘This Path Tonight‘ and is very much in the same vein as that release. Which is to say that there’s a balance of the personal and the political, the softer ballad and the rockier number very much in the CSN style. Or, to put it yet another way is an album of Graham Nash playing to his strengths.
‘Now‘ opens with a blend of the romantic confessional and the classic rock song, ‘Right Now‘ has Nash proclaiming that he’s found love when he “never thought he’d love again” and that far from ageing quietly he’s “still living my life – right now!” It’s a great opener, and it’s quite something that Nash’s voice is undiminished, there are no rough edges or battered growls here. The following song, ‘A Better Life‘ is a soft revisit of the themes of ‘Teach Your Children‘ – an encouragement to leave a better world to the younger generations, with hints at a kinder humanity and a world that has the environment protected. There’s an acknowledgment that maybe the children of the revolution haven’t quite lived up to their promise, and their children and grandchildren are getting on with sorting things out themselves – and maybe it’s time to do some learning and lend a hand again.
There’s a stronger political chiding on ‘Golden Idols‘ which takes a lyrical aim at the “Magatourists” and those “living in a different dimension” where an election lost is an election stolen, and reality has given way to the worship of a serial liar. ‘Stars and Stripes‘ takes an acoustic and pedal steel look at the same issue – questioning why there’s such an attraction to lies and illusions for so many in Nash’s adopted homeland – and what it will take to release them from their delusional obsession.
Love and politics are two main themes, but there’s also a little nostalgia – ‘Right Now‘ had reflected on years gone by, the closing love song ‘When It Comes To You‘ has Nash amazed that he’s found the greatest love of his life “to tell the truth you’re the very best thing that has happened to me / and at this point in my life that’s something to say.” And on ‘Buddy’s Back‘ there is the very Hollies-esque story of a band of young men who adored the music of Buddy Holly, copied his style, and then pushed into their own thing when they “started a band just to have some fun.” Shot through with half-recognised licks very much in the Buddy Holly style it’s very much Nash’s take on the ‘When We Was Fab‘ theme.
Without being morbid it has to be considered that, given the eighty-one years old Graham Nash’s solo release history – seven years since ‘This Path Tonight‘ and that was his first solo release for fourteen years – there is a chance that this is the last such album that he’ll release. Obviously, it’d be great if, like Crosby, he found that there was an album every year and a half still in him – or even better emulate Neil and put out an album every few months. Perhaps the perfectionist in Nash mitigates entirely against that last hope. If this should, though, be the last solo album of new material then it represents a high note – those who cherish ‘Songs for Beginners‘ and ‘Wild Tales‘ will find much to like on ‘Now‘, and that’s no bad thing.