David Crosby need never worry about being described as modest or humble. It is just not in his nature to play down his role in the Byrds or CSNY or indeed anything he puts his hand to – he just can't help himself. And yet throughout his artistic life Crosby has managed to nearly, but not quite, shortchange his clearly ample talents as a songwriter and singer with a cussedness in personal relations and a crippling fondness for drink and drugs.
In 2017, Sky Trails heralded a late career revival and now, on the eve of his 80th birthday, For Free provides more evidence of this surprising regeneration. Produced by Crosby's son, multi-instrumentalist James Raymond, with guest appearances by veteran soulster Michael McDonald and Americana star Sarah Jarosz, plus a Donald Fagen song written specially for the album, For Free sparkles in places, not least the three tracks connected to the above.
As with Sky Trails, Crosby covers a Joni Mitchell song, in this case a delicate and moving duet with Jarosz on the title track. McDonald contributes to the dramatic opener, River Rise, while Fagen's Rodriguez for a Night is happily straight out of the Steely Dan locker. Crosby's solo voice is a little thin, but it still works well in harmonies or when multitracked and there is lots of both.
Being Crosby, there is much navel-gazing, but he can also be incisive, particularly on the subtle Shot at Me.