David Crosby’s reputation for being an outspoken hellraiser precedes him. But scratch the surface, and you’ll find a songwriter of sensitivity and sophistication, one whose catalogue – from The Byrds, to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and his own solo work – speaks for itself. ‘For Free’ might not rival those heights, but it certainly echoes them; a fine take on those breezy Laurel Canyon elements, it’s a reminder that while the fires may have dimmed, they’re still glowing throughout the night.
Constructed alongside his son James Raymond, ‘For Free’ is refreshing, and easy on the ear. Michael McDonald stars on opener ‘River Rise’, while Steely Dan legend Donald Fagen enhances the irresistibly catchy ‘Rodriguez For A Night’ with its contagious, super-funky backbeat.
‘Secret Dancer’ is gorgeous, while ‘Ships In The Night’ pulls at the heartstrings, with its longing for paths untaken. Sarah Jarosz is on shimmering form on the title cut ‘For Free’, a loving cover of the Joni Mitchell original and a sign of Crosby’s willingness to cede the spotlight to others.
Indeed, a new generation who have come to his work through an outspoken Twitter feed might be surprised by the depth of emotional introspection on display. Closing with the neat one-two of ‘Shot At Me’ and ‘I Won’t Stay For Long’, this is an album that seems to use David Crosby’s vast experience to conjure a form of innocence. Playful yet packed with feeling, ‘For Free’ suggests that this is one music legend whose story is far from complete.
Words: Robin Murray
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