Very few bands have ever comfortably supported three songwriters, and even two can be a fractious challenge. Consider, then, the rare case of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – not only four songwriters in one outfit, but four established ones who had written hits with their previous bands: Buffalo Springfield (Stills and Young), the Byrds (Crosby) and the Hollies (Nash). Imagine the wrestling over vinyl bandwidth. Well, they didn’t last very long, did they? Young was the last in and the first out, and CSN was able to distribute songwriting bandwidth more sustainably, though Neil horned back in on several occasions.
Each had a role. The robust Stills was the most likely rocker. Crosby specialized in ambient art songs. Graham Nash wrote a lot of what you might call olive branches: songs that trod the fine line of treacle in order to give the audience a sweet treat after a lengthy Crosby number. But it is not all “Our House” and “Teach Your Children.” Nash has written songs of real substance and imagination over the years, including the lengthy, multi-part acid-trip document “Cathedral” from the group’s eponymous 1977 record, on which Nash also penned the hit “Just a Song Before I Go.”
Graham Nash’s busy itinerary of the last few years evinces a hale veteran of the ’60s with a lot left to say – in books and in records. In 2016, Nash released This Path Tonight, the dubious title track of which sounds rather like a geriatric Survivor outtake. But then the record forthwith becomes a really lucid and lovely collection of arty chamber-folk with a dab of grinding rock. Good thing the title track didn’t scare me off.
Graham Nash makes an oddly intimate appearance at the Event Gallery at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on Sunday, September 24 at 8 p.m. Prices for tickets to see the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee range from $66 to $106. For more information, visit www.bethelwoodscenter.org. The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts is located at 200 Hurd Road in Bethel.