Review: David Crosby, a Late-Career Marvel, Embraces His Steely Dan Side

Our take on 'Sky Trails, the sixth solo album from the CSNY veteran

David Crosby's sixth solo album is 'Sky Trails.' Credit: Anna Webber

Arriving less than a year after Lighthouse, David Crosby's luminous collaboration with jazz-rooted Snarky Puppy bandleader Michael League, Sky Trails nods airily to longtime Croz crony Joni Mitchell's own brilliant jazz years – with some signature Steely Dan harmonies thrown in for good measure. At 76, Crosby sounds more than comfortable alongside his producer/co-writer son James Raymond and a trio of sympathetic studio musicians who evoke Mitchell's singular sound with echoes of Wayne Shorter from saxophonist Steve Tavaglione and Jaco Pastorius from fretless bassist Mai Agan.

Crosby himself, though, cannot be replicated. He reveals a heretofore concealed crooner persona in the breezy ballad "Before Tomorrow Falls on Love," co-written with Michael McDonald, and unspools lusciously layered "Wooden Ships"-y harmonies alongside singer-songwriter Becca Stevens in the dreamy title track. Dan fans will dig opener "She's Got to Be Somewhere," which follows its wandering heroine across Southern California and foreshadows Crosby's gorgeous version of "Amelia," Joni Mitchell's remarkable 1976 reflection on the incompatibility of art and love.

Where songs like "Curved Air" and "Here It's Almost Sunset" arrive and depart with a certain vaporous beauty, Crosby's righteously cantankerous political side is represented by "Capitol," an embittered guided tour of forces manifesting themselves as "a tempest, a system, moving like sharks." He threatens to stop watching the news in the breezy "Sell Me a Diamond" but probably won't. Above all, Sky Trails affirms this late-career marvel's almost uncanny ability to reconcile his youthful inspiration and ideals with mature wisdom. You don't see a lot of that these days – in the capitol or elsewhere.