It’s been a long time since the Age of Aquarius, but David Crosby is one dude who can still deliver the full Woodstock vibe. On Here If You Listen, his new collaboration with the Lighthouse Band — Michael League, Becca Stevens, and Michelle Willis — Crosby and company do exactly that on a fabulous cover of the classic Joni Mitchell song “Woodstock.” Tweaked by Crosby for the new century with a subtly different set of changes, the song still features the golden four-part harmonies that made the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young version on Déjà Vu so memorable. Crosby said he realized this version had to be on the new album that dropped on October 26 after the Lighthouse Band tried it out live. “We got to the first chorus, when our four voices first sing different notes, and the audience burst into spontaneous applause,” said Crosby. “Not just a few claps,” he added, “but sustained applause, like at the end of a song.”
Such is the magic when this new quartet locks into a chord, and not only on “Woodstock” or one of the other Byrds/CSN/CSNY classics that everyone knows from the radio. Here If You Listen was recorded in just a month of studio sessions, and that includes the time it took the group to write the music, yet the sophisticated harmonies and haunting lyrics and melodies of songs such as “Vagrants of Venice” and “Other Half Rule” are right up there with some of the Croz’s greatest hits.
A couple of tracks, “1967” and “1974,” got a head start. Both were discovered by Michael League, who found them on old demos Crosby had shared with him. The effect of the way these recordings are incorporated into the final release is uncanny. As Crosby said, “It’s like you can hear me in the middle of writing the song.”
Crosby and the Lobero have a history. The musician played his first gig there at age 17, and he’s always loved the way a room of less than 1,000 seats lets him take the audience on a journey and tell them an evening-length story they will never forget. Speaking of stories and things that people may or may not forget, Crosby said the documentary he has been working on with Cameron Crowe is nearly finished. “I’ve known Cameron since the days when he was a boy reporter. We were one of the bands he followed around back when he was living the story he told in Almost Famous,” said Crosby. “He has a way of getting things out of me other people don’t,” Crosby said, reflecting on Crowe’s prowess as an interviewer. “The film may be too much for some people, but I don’t care; it’s the truth.”
Last summer, Crosby made a remarkable live guest appearance at the Newport Folk Festival, prompting a YouTube video of “Wooden Ships” to go viral. (The single is now available as something more tangible, thanks to Jason Isbell’s label Southeastern Records, which released the song this month.) This cover of the classic “Wooden Ships” captures some of the heady feelings associated with this epic jam, a staple of live sets by both CSNY and Jefferson Airplane and one of the greatest story songs of the ’60s.
Crosby stayed on the Newport stage for another, even more rousing number, the protest song “Ohio.” Looking proud and defiant at 77 years of age, Crosby called out to the crowd to sing along. “Louder!” he shouted, and 50 years collapse into an eternal moment, one filled with righteous indignation and glorious hope. —Charles Donelan
For more of the same, check out David Crosby and friends on Thursday, November 8, when they land at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.). Call (805) 963-0761 or see lobero.org.