- The Washington Times - Monday, August 16, 2004

And then there were two.

That’s the dilemma of David Crosby and Graham Nash, the hippie troubadours of Woodstock and the protest generation of classic rock. No Neil Young. No Stephen Stills.

For a group of guys in their 60s, with their creativity engines reduced to occasional bursts of combustion, it hurts to lose half the potency of your songwriting prowess.

Mr. Crosby and Mr. Nash have worked without Mr. Stills before — Crosby, Stills and Nash constitute a full quorum; Young is a bonus — but it has been nearly 30 years since the two have settled on being a duo.

Does the result, called “Crosby Nash,” add up to something we should care about?

They should take a tip from their contemporary Garth Hudson (of the Band), who’s back for a second round with a group of gray-haired country rockers, dubbed Burrito Deluxe. The tip is this: Don’t bother worrying.

“Crosby Nash” tries too hard; Burrito Deluxe’s “The Whole Enchilada” doesn’t try at all, and that’s why it’s a better listen.

Crosby and Nash

Crosby Nash

Sanctuary Records

This much is clear: The Bush administration has given Mr. Crosby and Mr. Nash grist for their social-conscience mills. So once more, it’s into the breach for this band of quasi-brothers.

Mr. Nash’s “Live on (The Wall)” is ostensibly about the Vietnam War, but its reference to “a winless war,” with neither side sure of what it’s fighting for, has an Iraq protest written between every line.

Similarly, on songs such as “Don’t Dig Here” (written by Mr. Crosby’s son, James Raymond) and the elder Mr. Crosby’s “They Want It All,” the dartboard is corporate greed and environmental ruin, things supposedly running rampant over the past three years.

The problem with these songs is that they have no bite; they’re so prettified, so wimpy and so sophisticatedly recorded that there’s no sense of urgency to them.

Sure, there are a few of Mr. Crosby’s trademark open-tuned, haunt-your-ears guitar progressions, such as the graceful “Through Here Quite Often.” But they’re by-the-numbers David Crosby, and he gives off no feeling of conviction or strenuousness.

Mr. Nash, always the least interesting personality of the group, sings here in a voice that’s as aesthetically annoying as his mustache. When one is singing about soldiers dying for a lie (“Live On”) or impending doom (“Half Your Angels”), it shouldn’t be delivered in an “Our house is a very, very, very fine house” lilt.

Mr. Nash does produce a few winners — “Shining on Your Dreams” is a nice, breezy Neil Young stand-in — but on a double-CD this long, with extensive songwriting help from the supporting cast of musicians, his batting average barely tops his body weight.

It’s time for these two to head for the stud farm.

Whoops … almost forgot. Mr. Crosby’s already there.

Burrito Deluxe

The Whole Enchilada

Luna Chica Records

While “Crosby Nash” tries to stir up memories of the Vietnam War and its possible parallels to our current troubles, this Nashville pickup band is singing about a much older conflict: the Civil War.

The song, done originally by the Amazing Rhythm Aces, is “The Last Letter Home,” narrated by a Confederate cavalryman questioning the morality of the Rebels’ cause.

How’s that for timelessness?

Burrito Deluxe was formed in 2002 as a sort of legacy-maintenance outfit for the Flying Burrito Brothers, the late Gram Parsons’ old band. It features Mr. Hudson — you know it’s him the second you hear his keyboard on “You Got Gold” — singer-guitarist Carlton Moody; bassist Jeff “Stick” Davis; drummer Rick Lonow; and pedal-steel guitarist “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow, the one original Burrito Brother.

These new Burrito Brothers, either collectively or singly, wrote a couple new tunes for this sophomore effort, but mostly they mine contemporary country songs as well as newer material from legends such as Merle Haggard. (They cover his “Way Back in the Mountains.”)

The result is a casual, skillfully performed set of songs that sound somewhere (somewhere good) between old-timey and new-timey country.

“Enchilada” closes with a cover of “Rex Bob Lowenstein,” Mark Germino’s tribute to a radio DJ who’s short on chatter and long on music. “He’s a Democrat, he’s a Republican/But when he spins those records he’s neither one.”

Now there’s a refreshing idea: music not bogged down in politics. Crosby and Nash should give it a try sometime.

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