Gone but not

David Crosby goes back on the road

Eddie Vedder said something about worshiping the music, not the musicians. David Crosby has spent a career dealing with questions about who among CSN and CSNY is speaking to whom, about drugs and prison and the ethics of his liver transplant and so on and on. It may be why he sounds really pleased when he is asked about the music.

“Working on some new songs. Always a good thing,” he said when asked if his music was why he seemed in high spirits.

Crosby will appear at Reno’s Silver Legacy on Sat., April 29 as part of a tour announced Jan. 30, the “The David Crosby and Friends” tour that showcases his solo album Croz and the planned new album Sky Trails. He’s being supported by his son James Raymond on keys, Mai Agan on bass, Steve DiStanislao on drums, Jeff Pevar on guitar and Michelle Wills on keys/vocals.

He’s somewhat familiar with Reno.

“We’ve played there a number of times,” he said. “Crosby Stills Nash has played there. I think Crosby Stills Nash & Young might have played there as well. And I’m sure I’ve played there with Graham or by myself.”

He has found casinos a different kind of site for performing.

“Casinos are hard, you know. Some of the audience is there to see you, and some of the audience is there to see whoever’s on that night. So they’re a little tougher. A little harder to win. Its not quite the same as an audience that’s all there to see you.”

Asked about whether playing with his son is different from any other kind of stage experience, he answers that question and then extends it to other musical matters, his tone of voice communicating italics on the things that excite him most.

“Yes. Yes, there’s a bond there,” he said. “He’s a brilliant musician. A bril-l-l-liant musician. And so I’m very proud of him, and I’m thrilled to work with him. We get along extremely well, and we have a very good time. You know what? I’m so lucky. And I have two people that I can write with at that level—him and Michael League. And I have two bands, one that was formed with him [CPR or Crosby, Pevar & Raymond] and one with Michael League [Snarky Puppy], and they’re both wonderful, and they’re completely different. But they’re both wonderful bands, and I can do it either way, either one of those bands, or I can do it by myself acoustic. And I can take three really good options—really completely different and really fun. Really good. So I’m pretty happy about it.”

In fact, there were some folks waiting for him after our phone conversation concluded, and he was anticipating the session.

“Well, you know, I can get happy thinking about it. I’m just about to go down there and start up this new one with my son, which is like CPR but with these two fantastic women added—Michelle Willis from the Lighthouse band, this singer/songwriter from Canada who’s going to be singing harmony with me, and Mai Agan, who’s this i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e bass player. She’s from, of all places, Estonia, and she plays in Scandinavia. She’s got her own jazz band, and she’s very, very good. I mean, very good. So it’s pretty terrific and couldn’t be much happier.”

Forward momentum

A two-time R&R Hall of Fame laureate—for both the Byrds and CSN—Crosby has given a good deal of thought to the dynamics of bands.

“You know, groups have a natural dynamic that they go through. You get together and you’re excited and you kind of like each other and you’re really stoked, and you are having a great time. But as you go along, you wind up—it devolves, to the point where it’s just, ’Turn on the smoke machine and play your hits,’ and there’s no forward motion. That’s not good enough for me. I can’t work with that. I have to be able to have forward motion. There has to be some new material and some excitement and some joy. And I can’t just sit there and do it for the money and take the path of least resistance. It doesn’t work for me.”

Crosby and Neil Young have given CSN/CSNY much of its reputation for social consciousness. And Crosby may be upbeat—as is true of many activists these days—because he is drawing enthusiasm from the campaign against Donald Trump, which he supports and participates in. He had supported Barack Obama with pleasure, and Trump turns his stomach.

“He’s a racist,” Crosby said. “He’s a pig about women. He’s pretty disgusting, and he’s doing a lot of damage to the United States.”

During the month of Earth Day and the science march , he faults Trump for telling climate deniers what they want to hear.

“Unfortunately, these guys are climate deniers not because they don’t know it’s true, they do know it’s true,” he said. “It gets in the way of their making more money right now. … Instead of us progressing with trying to correct the situation, we will go four years backwards. And that’s really bad for the United States, but we’re screwing the whole world when we do that.”

What’s in a name?

It is part of the lore of rock that Crosby began writing “Long Time Gone” the same night Robert Kennedy was shot. I asked how it was possible to take that pain and put it to work so soon.

“It was an aggregate thing,” he said. “It wasn’t just Bobby Kennedy. It was losing John Kennedy, losing Martin Luther King, for God’s sake. You know—people that I really cared about and that I thought were good leaders, humane kind of people. It was incredibly tough to lose. So, you know, when they shot Bobby, I finally cracked and wrote the song.”

There is something in his voice that suggests the pain is not entirely past.

“Long Time Gone” gave its name to a feel, a sense of time and place, and so to this day it is employed to suggest that sense.

An article in the journal Antiques about the way some Texas women brought 16 incredible masterworks of European and American art to the suite intended to be used—but never occupied—by President and Mrs. Kennedy in the Hotel Texas in Dallas in November 1963 was headlined “A long time gone.”

A book of essays on the 1960s edited by Alexander Bloom is titled Long Time Gone. A novel by Karen S. White that delves deeply into Kennedy lore is titled A Long Time Gone.

And David Crosby’s autobiography? Long Time Gone.