Of all the words one can use to describe This Path Tonight, the most surprising one might be “fresh”. Unlike his 60’s folk contemporaries like Bob Dylan, Graham Nash hasn’t released a solo album since 2002. In March this year, he announced that Crosby, Stills and Nash would never perform again. With that news, it seemed like Nash might be winding down, which would be understandable at age 74. However, This Path Tonight sounds like the work of a man in his prime, and in its most interesting twist, isn’t about looking back, it’s about looking forward.
The album’s best moment is found in the delightfully sappy Myself At Last. Exploring a topic rarely covered in song – finding love late in life – Nash spends the majority of the track describing the lifestyle of a lonely folk singer – “everyone I’ve ever known / has been some kind of test” – which climaxes with an appropriately melancholic harmonica solo. However, Nash twists the track around in its final verse, singing of how someone “saved my soul at last”. He has dedicated the track to his new girlfriend, and his sentiment of finding happiness after a lifetime of anguish is heartwarming.
On the title track, over bluesy guitars and bass-heavy drums, Nash ponders the future – “this path tonight / where will it lead me?” Beneath the Waves alternates between the bravado of the chorus – “fifty years before the mast / how long will it last?” – and the haunting verses and bridge – “rolling over me, the weight of water in my ears”. It’s hard not to think the ship he’s singing about it actually Nash himself, considering his remaining time on earth. That feeling of grasping at life exists throughout the album, but not as a tragedy, instead as an impetus to live life to the fullest.
The only time Nash really looks back on the record is the aptly titled Golden Days. The lyrics first read as strictly autobiographical nostalgia – “I used to be in a band / made up of my friends” – but as the track progresses, cracks of suffering begin to seep into his memories – “oh I know that people hurt / but they try to find a better way to those golden days”. Even when he is looking to his past, he’s remembering it as the imperfect thing it was. In spite of many of his contemporaries’ voices having aged into growls, Nash’s sweet tenor sounds as innocent and full of life as it did in 1969.
This Path Tonight sets Nash’s pondering to largely tasteful folk arrangements. If the album has any flaw, it’s that some tracks are noticeably less interestingly produced than others. The aforementioned title track has real bite to it, which tends to make the more folksy tracks (like Target, the weakest track on the album) sound somewhat weak in comparison. However, even when the instrumentation doesn’t live up to Nash himself, his lyrics and beautiful singing make This Path Tonight a worthwhile listen, and an exciting new chapter in his career.