Archive for Graham Nash

30 Days Out Interview: Oisin Leech of The Lost Brothers

Posted in Interview, SXSW with tags , , , , on March 24, 2013 by 30daysout
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Mark McCausland, left, and Oisin Leech of The Lost Brothers.

Among all the new friends we made at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year, we really like The Lost Brothers. The “Losties” are a duo from Ireland who sing in close harmony, reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel or the Everly Brothers.

Mark McCausland and Oisin Leech met in an dusty old Liverpool library in 2007. Comparing influences, they discovered they both played in various bands and had traveled to Liverpool to take their music to the next level. The pair shared a love of music and influences as diverse as the Carter Family to Sam Cooke, Mississippi John Hurt to Dion and the Belmonts, Phil Spector to the Louvin Brothers, the Impressions to Van Morrison. The pair were regular faces on the Liverpool music scene and when together, people began to call them The Lost Brothers.

Leech and McCausland left the bands they were in at the time and flew to Portland, Oregon, where they hooked up with producer Mike Coykendall (M Ward, Bright Eyes), and recorded in his attic their debut album Trails of the Lonely.

Their folk-tinged music has great atmosphere, particularly on their third album The Passing Of The Lost-Brothers-000165-560x374Night, thanks in no small part to singer/songwriter Brendan Benson, who produced it in Nashville. The songs are sometimes sad, sometimes eerie and moody, from the opener “Not Now Warden,” about a man in prison whose love has moved on, to the sensational “Widow Maker,” a story of a hanging.

Appropriately, The Lost Brothers were invited to perform at the Tribute to Levon Helm that was one of the big closing shows during this year’s SXSW. Oisin Leech of the Losties saw one of our photos and contacted us to ask if we had any shots of him and his partner performing with Steve Earle and others in the climactic song “The Weight.” We did indeed have a few pictures, and in the exchange we had the chance to ask Oisin a few questions.

30 Days Out: I seem to recall you guys have been at SXSW before, but how was this one for you? What did you think? What was the weirdest experience? What was the best experience for you?

Oisin Leech: Yes, we have been to SXSW before but 2013 was our favorite year so far. Mark and I loved it. It’s the first time we have an album out in the United States on Readymade Records and so it was good timing to come to play Austin this year with the new album just out. This is our third album.

Hearing Dave Grohl speak about his favorite punk bands and about his early days with Nirvana was really something. Nirvana was the reason I started a punk band, the Vermin, when I was 14 and Grohl is one of my heroes. The Vermin didn’t gig. We just rehearsed and read Nirvana biographies.

The weirdest experience? It was weird, but weird in a good way, to sing “The Weight” with Amy Helm, Steve Earle and the Midnight Ramble band at Auditorium Shores at the tribute show for the late, great Levon Helm. It was weird to sing in front of that many people – good fun though. I’m not complaining! The Midnight Ramble Band are a wonderful band and it was a big thrill for Mark and I to jump up for a verse.

The best SXSW experience was seeing Charlie Sexton play guitar at Threadgills as part of Will Sexton and Brady Blades’ SXSW Big Bang. It was great fun to be part of Will and Brady’s gig. Steve Poltz, John Murry and Charlie Faye also played. I am a big 7635175Bob Dylan fan and to hear Charlie Sexton play in a small venue was like watching lightning. Charlie plays in Dylan’s band.

30 Days Out: Do you approach audiences differently in the U.S. than you would in the U.K.? Is there a different sensibility, or expectation on the audience’s part – and yours?

Leech: Well, it’s funny because I think a lot of folk melodies and lyrics came across the ocean from Ireland to North America over the centuries. And obviously North America sent rock and roll back. I hear it in a county song by Gordon Lightfoot or even in a Bob Dylan song like “Restless Farewell.”

The Lost Brothers’ music is so inspired by American music – Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry, Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt – maybe sometime an American audience at a Lost Brothers gig are hearing their own music through the voices of two Irish guys. We try to bring our own thing to the table. It’s an ongoing musical exchange. I always love the reception we get in the States and maybe they are hearing older traditions being sung back to them. We never, ever underestimate the audience wherever we play because usually they know a lot more than the singer. A show is what happens between the song and the listener and therein lies the magic of a good or bad gig.

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Mark McCausland, left, and Oisin Leech (center) sing “The Weight” with Steve Earle and The Midnight Ramble Band at SXSW 2013.

The Everly Brothers sing a song called “Rose Connolly” which was a traditional song in Kentucky but “Rose Connolly” was a traditional song from Scotland and Northern Ireland a long time before it was ever sung in Kentucky. It traveled across the ocean! So it’s an ongoing musical conversation over hundreds of years. Maybe that’s why we feel at home when we play in the U.S. because we’re just a small part of something much bigger that’s been ongoing for a long time.

When we did the U.S. tour with Glen Hansard we could really feel the warmth back from the audience each night from Boston right across to San Francisco over the three weeks. When we play in Ireland and in the U.K. it’s a more edgy experience. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just a different atmosphere – maybe you need both worlds, I think you do.

30 Days Out: I love the story about your trip to Portland in the early days of the duo. What do you think of that city’s vibe? Does it have any similarities to Ireland/U.K.?

Leech: Portland is where Mark and I first recorded so we will always have a soft spot in our hearts for Portland – the city of the Rose. We lived there at the White Eagle Hotel and often go back. On our first album Trails of the Lonely we worked with two great producers in Portland, Mike Coykendall and Adam Selzer. We spent many hours in Powell’s book store looking for original copies of John Fante books. Portland has its own unique vibe, unlike anywhere I have ever been. Also our dear friend and musician extraordinaire Paul Brainard lives there. Always great to see Paul.

YouTube: “Under The Turquoise Sky”

30 Days Out: Listening to you live, you certainly live up to all those comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel.  But I hear influences that go back a little farther, and wider … Can you talk about your influences?

Leech: Mark and I were lucky in that we grew up around music. Mark’s family were the traveling Moore family band from Omagh. They played my granny’s dance hall in the 1950s long before we were ever born. My mum sings at church each week. My sister Saramai is a great singer and my dad plays violin. Music is everywhere in Ireland. It’s in the water.

My first love was punk rock – English bands like Alternative TV and the UK Subs, Irish punk bands like Striknien DC. Then I got into Nirvana and started to read about Kurt’s love of Leadbelly which opened up a door to Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters and folk and country. Folk is just like punk. It’s an open form of expression with (few) rules. I connected with it immediately. I used to go on Wednesday nights to a Dublin club called the Cobblestone and sit at the very front listening to singers like Sonny Condell and Ger Wolfe.

When people say Mark and I sound like Simon and Garfunkel it’s a big compliment but we never planned that at all. It was just chance. We are big Everly Brothers fans more so. The Everlys raised the game for everyone.

Mark loves Merle Travis and Sam Cooke. We’re both big Chuck Berry fans … Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Johnson, The Louvin Brothers, The Delmore Brothers, Jackson C. Frank, Van Morrison and Them, The Band and Levon Helm is a huge inspiration. We love the Beatles and lived in Liverpool for many years. Then there are bands from closer to home like Sweeneys Men, Planxty with legends like Andy Irvine, Donal Lunny and Christy Moore. I also love Patrick Street with Andy Irvine. Music that grabs the heart strings or gets the heart and soul racing.

There’s a singer from Sheffield, England, called Richard Hawley. He is as good as it gets for me. We made our second album So Long John Fante with some of Richard’s band and producer Colin Elliot.

YouTube: “Until The Morning” (filmed in Austin during SXSW)

30 Days Out: Love “Widow Maker,” especially the video. Can you talk a little about working with Brendan Benson, and what he brought to the table when you worked together?

Leech: It was a big thrill to work with Brendan. He gave us great confidence in our lyrics and in our playing. He taught us how hard you have to work. We made the album in five days and I don’t remember taking any breaks day or night. Then Brendan mixed the album in two days. He is such a great singer and writer himself so it was inspiring to be making a record with him and we had so many laughs during the week. He is a gentleman, a friend, and we love him dearly like a brother. Not only did he make the album with us but he released it on his own label Readymade Records in the U.S. In the U.K. it’s on Lojinx Records.

30 Days Out: What’s coming up for you guys?

Leech: We have 18 new songs demo’d and we have a very clear idea of how we want the next album to sound.We just wrote two new songs in Woodstock which we are very excited about. We just did the Midnight Ramble at The Levon Helm Studios and it was a very inspiring experience. We will do the summer festivals, in June we tour with Billy Bragg and next week we fly to London because Graham Nash has asked us to perform at the opening of his new photo exhibition “Graham Nash – Life on the Road.”  Mark and I have no idea how Graham heard of The Lost Brothers but it doesn’t matter I suppose, we’re thrilled that he asked us and we are looking forward to playing and seeing the photos!

The Lost Brothers official web site

YouTube: “Widow Maker”

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Psychedelic Relics, Part 2

Posted in Lost Classics!, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2010 by 30daysout

Pretty much every band around in the mid-1960s got around to cutting a “psychedelic” album or two, that is, if the band lasted long enough.  The Byrds got freaky with “Eight Miles High” and the Beatles blew everybody’s mind with Revolver, and everyone followed suit.

Today we are going to take a look at some latter-period work from British Invasion bands that followed in the footsteps of the Fab Four.  If they lasted long enough to reach 1967-1970, pretty much everyone of that era had to cut their own druggy tunes for better or worse.

The Hollies came along in 1963 with crisp, bright harmonies and hooky songs that made it to the top of the pop charts.  “Stop, Stop, Stop,” “Bus Stop,” “On A Carousel,” “Carrie Anne” and many others were pleasant, melodic and sounded great on AM radio.  The Hollies were led by vocalists Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks and Graham Nash, who were also the main songwriters.

Perhaps a little jaded by their pop success, the Hollies got psychedelic with Evolution, their album from 1967.  The harmonies were still firmly in place, Clarke-Hicks-Nash were still the songwriters, but the instrumentation now included some fuzz guitar and trippy drumming.  “Have You Ever Loved Somebody” is a perfect example – it had just enough psychedelic energy and pop smarts to still be a chart hit (it was covered by the Everly Brothers and the Searchers, who had the hit version).

Following the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper blueprint, the Hollies had their own sitar-spiced tune, “Heading For A Fall,” and some baroque Anglophilia, “Ye Olde Toffee Shop,” complete with fey harpsichord.  But what makes Evolution listenable, and even memorable, are the vocal arrangements.  “You Need Love” and “When Your Light Turned On” shows that the Hollies were a formidable band on a level with the Kinks, the Who, the Stones, etc.

But the seeds of discord had already been sown: by the next year, 1968, Graham Nash grew impatient with the endless string of pop singles and would leave Merrie Olde England and the Hollies behind.  He turned up in Laurel Canyon, and you know the rest.  Clarke and Hicks would soldier on with replacement singer Terry Sylvester, and the Hollies would go into the 1970s with huge hits like “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)” and “The Air That I Breathe.”

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Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Graham Nash & David Crosby

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , on September 12, 2010 by 30daysout

Back to albums after playing all of my sister’s singles over the past few weeks … Let’s start with an easy one, an album you may have heard back in the day but now it’s rather hard to find: Graham Nash David Crosby, from 1972.

By 1970, one of the biggest bands in the world was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – comprising David Crosby (formerly of the Byrds), Graham Nash (the Hollies), Stephen Stills and Neil Young (both ex-Buffalo Springfield).  Probably the best example of a “supergroup,” the quartet released the monster hit Déjà Vu in 1970 and mounted a massive tour.  The four then went their separate ways and each cut a solo LP that got a lot of attention.  Then Nash and Crosby decided to team up, each bringing to the table their respective strengths: Crosby’s introspective, moody and (sometimes) dense music and lyrics, and Nash’s knack for catchy pop melodies.

Like they had done when cutting their respective solo LPs, Nash/Crosby invited the cream of L.A.’s session players to join them on the album.  The Section, an aggregate of players that included bass player Leland Sklar, pianist Craig Doerge, guitarist Danny Kortchmar and drummer Russell Kunkel, backed the singers on most of the album.  One song, Crosby’s “The Wall Song,” had backing from the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann and Phil Lesh, while Garcia played pedal steel on “Southbound Train” by Nash.  Guitarist Dave Mason, now solo after his stint in Traffic, played the tasty lead guitar on “Immigration Man,” which was the first single from the album.

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Sampler Daze: WB/Reprise Loss Leaders, Part 7

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2009 by 30daysout

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By 1974, radio’s hard rock trend was going strong – Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Humble Pie dominated the FM rock airwaves.  Appropriately titled for the time, Hard Goods arrived in mailboxes with freshly minted rockers like Montrose, covering Roy Brown’s “Good Rocking Tonight” and Foghat, offering its cover of Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be The Day.”  Ted Nugent and his Amboy Dukes show up, and the perfect marriage between glam and hard rock emerges in the then-new KISS (Casablanca Records were distributed by Warner Bros. until about 1976).

The Doobie Brothers were still rockin’ behind guitarist/vocalist Tom Johnston and they were fresh off their 1973 triumph The Captain and Me.  The Doobies’ new “Pursuit On 53rd Street” had a guitar crunch similar to the monster single “China Grove” but behind the scenes, Johnston’s health was becoming precarious.  He was able to stick with the Doobies through late 1974 even as new personnel were added, most notably ex-Steely Dan guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter.  Finally in early 1975 Johnston had to quit the band, and a replacement was found in another Steely Dan alumnus, Michael McDonald.  The Doobies quickly became McDonald’s franchise, and everyone’s heard the rest of the story – with more than 30 million albums sold, the Doobies are still an active touring band with a rejuvenated Tom Johnston at the helm.

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The Mother of Woodstock

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , on August 8, 2009 by 30daysout

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Joni Mitchell was one of the best singer/songwriters to come out of the late 1960s, and in many minds she’s identified with the Woodstock festival although she spent that historic weekend downstate, in New York City.

Mitchell is, of course, the warbling Canadian whose complex songs nevertheless propelled her into stardom and became hits mainly for other people (Judy Collins with “Both Sides Now,” Buffy Sainte-Marie with “The Circle Game” and country singer George Hamilton IV with “Urge For Going.”).  She had her own hits- “Help Me” and the album Court and Spark in 1974 – and has influenced everyone from Stevie Nicks to Sheryl Crow to Annie Lennox to Natalie Merchant.

But you may have already begun hearing one of her best-known songs, “Woodstock,” covered most famously by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  Back in 1969, Mitchell was invited to perform at Woodstock but her manager didn’t want her to miss a scheduled appearance on Dick Cavett’s ABC-TV show.   So she stewed in the Big Apple while her buddies (including then-boyfriend Graham Nash) transformed Max Yasgur’s farm into ground zero for that era’s pop culture universe.

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Bad Career Moves, Part 3

Posted in Rock Rant with tags , , , , on July 25, 2009 by 30daysout
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Stephen Stills - No booty today!

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were huge stars and gods of the counterculture in the late 1960s, but what many have forgotten (or didn’t know) is that CSNY was also a so-called “supergroup.”  Graham Nash was in the second-wave British invasion band the Hollies, and David Crosby spent a few years in the original Byrds.  Stephen Stills and Neil Young were the twin towers of Buffalo Springfield, probably the finest American rock band ever.

For some reason, Nash was always considered the weak link in the group – although he wound up writing and singing most of CSNY’s hits (“Teach Your Children,” “Wasted On The Way,” “Our House”).  Crosby always kind of a loudmouth and his songs had no melody and made no sense.  Stills and Young were the guitarists, and they gave this group its rock and roll kick.

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Lost Classics? “Allies,” Crosby, Stills & Nash

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , , on July 13, 2009 by 30daysout
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Stills and Crosby, Houston 1977

To help us get in the mood to make the trek up to New York for the 40th anniversary of Woodstock (August 15), I made a couple of mix CDs with some music of the era and in doing so I marveled at how well much of that stuff still holds up today.  (Well, it may depend on how old you are and what you’ve been smoking …)

And I wondered how often did some of these acts go astray in the ensuing years?  Here’s an example: Allies, a 1983 mostly live effort from Woodstock vets Crosby, Stills and Nash.

In 1977 I saw CSN at the Summit in Houston – they had put out the highly successful CSN album that year and scored a radio hit: the Graham Nash-penned “Just A Song Before I Go.”  The album itself would have been No. 1, but it was kept out of the top spot by a little thing called Rumours.

Anyway, CSN in Houston sounded pretty good, Stephen Stills played great and David Crosby hadn’t spiraled into drug-induced insanity yet.  Cut to 1983 – CSN’s  hit album from the year before, Daylight Again, anchored by “Wasted On The Way” and “Southern Cross,” is still on the charts.  They are approached by Hollywood to write a song for an upcoming movie about a kid who hacks into the top-secret U.S. Defense computer system, taking the world to the brink of a nuclear war.

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New (Old) Stuff!

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on June 12, 2009 by 30daysout

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So the summer’s here and even though the major record labels are basically drowning in their own red ink, they still manage to throw out these repackages to make a few quick bucks.

The Beach Boys’ Summer Love Songs is the third themed repackaging in as many years from Capitol Records.  Far from scraping the bottom of the barrel, this one is themed “love songs” and “summer songs.”  I guess.  It doesn’t matter – this is still great stuff, even though most of it is more than 40 years old!   There are new stereo mixes of “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Why Do Fools Fall In Love” and “Hushabye,” there is even a previously unreleased Dennis Wilson tune, “Fallin’ In Love” (which was an Australian single B-side).

Neil Young has been tirelessly releasing his vast collection of old tapes, and his recent live offerings have been great to merely OK.  The 8-disc music collection Archives: Volume 1, 1962-1972 (10 discs on DVD) is painstakingly detailed, giving us some of Neil’s first recordings with his Canadian garage band The Squires, some Buffalo Springfield rarities (in mono) and so on, until just after Harvest.   There’s a lot of great stuff here, but if you are not a serious fan you better pass – or at least wait for the truncated CD version.

Not to be outdone by their sometime bandmate, Crosby, Stills and Nash have released the shorter-and-much-sweeter Demos, 12 songs that are mostly just solo performances from the band member who wrote each tune.  The exception is the opener “Marrakesh Express,” which features a gorgeous blending of the voices of David Crosby and Graham Nash that not only illustrates what made not only CSN sound so great, but their old bands too (Crosby in the Byrds, Nash in the Hollies).  Still, this is of interest primarily if you want to hear how these classics started out.

MP3: “Your Summer Dream” by the Beach Boys

MP3: “Dance Dance Dance” by Neil Young

MP3: “Marrakesh Express” (demo) by Crosby, Stills & Nash

Valentine’s Day

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2009 by 30daysout

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Have  a good day, both you and your loved one.   

MP3: “Valentine” by Nils Lofgren (w/Bruce Springsteen)

MP3: “Heartbeat” by Denny Laine (w/Paul McCartney)

MP3: “Two Hearts” by Graham Nash (w/Carole King)

MP3: “Hearts Against The Wind” by Linda Ronstadt (w/J.D. Souther)

MP3: “Wavin’ My Heart Goodbye” by the Flatlanders (w/Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock)

MP3: “Valentine’s Day Is Over” by Billy Bragg

MP3: “Love Stinks” by the J. Geils Band

MP3: “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” (Promo version) by Bob Dylan

MP3: “Cupid” (live) by Sam Cooke

MP3: “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye

 

Review: Ry Cooder, Graham Nash boxed

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by 30daysout

front                cover

A couple of new box sets attempt to take in-depth looks at the career output of two rock artists who may not be A-list famous, but are vital nonetheless. 

Ry Cooder’s 2-CD set The UFO Has Landed reviews the work of the incredible guitarist who’s played with the Rolling Stones and Van Morrison, scored a number of movies and as a solo artist released one of the most eclectic catalogs in recorded music.  This anthology, assembled by Cooder’s son and musical partner Joachim, doesn’t tackle Ry’s work in a chronological order so you have early covers of Woody Guthrie and Willie Dixon next to some of his moody, swirling film instrumentals. 

Less than half of the 34 tracks on this anthology are Cooder originals; the rest are interpretations of traditional music.  But if you aren’t familiar with Ry Cooder’s work, don’t let that stop you: this stuff rocks, sometimes unbelievably so.  “Get Rhythm,” the Johnny Cash cover that kicks off Disc 1, mixes some nasty slide guitar work with a tropical beat that’s instantly infectious.  A cover of Wilbert Harrison’s “Let’s Work Together” has guest performances from Zydeco accordionist Buckwheat Zydeco and Memphis legend Jim Dickinson on keyboards – and of course, it rocks. 

I don’t have enough time or space to riffle through all the tracks, this is all great listening.  Hats off the boys at Rhino Records for this great compilation!  One track they missed though – Cooder’s version of “Across The Borderline,” a song he wrote (along with Dickinson and John Hiatt) for the 1982 Jack Nicholson flick The Border.  The song has been done by Freddy Fender, Dwight Yoakam, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, but Cooder’s version is the best – it guest stars cult movie fave Harry Dean Stanton!

MP3: “Let’s Work Together”

MP3: “Across The Borderline” (with Harry Dean Stanton)

Graham Nash is, of course, the guy we all loved in the Hollies, the dude we were OK with in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and the solo artist who went from charming to irritating to “American Idol” over a 30-year span.  And that’s sort of how the retrospective Reflections plays out over three discs. 

Disc One is easily the most indispensable, the curtain rising on three Nash-written classics from the Hollies (in mono!) and rolling right into the monumental songs he did with CSN and Y: “Marrakesh Express,” “Teach Your Children” and “Our House,” among others.  His navel gazer “Right Between The Eyes” (heard previously only as a live version) pops up here as a studio demo.  The first CD winds down with early solo work that’s pretty good; many of these songs (like the wimpy protest songs “Chicago” and “Military Madness’) feature many of the crowned heads of the late ’60s hippie kingdom like members of the Dead, the Airplane and whomever. 

But after that first disc you get two platters’ worth of plodding piano plunkers and hilariously dated synthesizer screamers, interrupted only occasionally by a really listenable moment.  “Wasted On The Way,” a chart hit for CSN, is OK, and buried on the third disc there’s a charming “Two Hearts” which teams Nash and Carole King for some truly impressive harmony work.  The historians at Rhino did some great work for Graham Nash (as they did with the Crosby box set last year, and presumably with the upcoming Stephen Stills set), but I wish they would’a tossed in “The War Song,” the 45 single Nash and Neil Young cut in 1972 to support George McGovern’s presidential bid.

MP3: “Carrie Anne” by the Hollies

MP3: “The War Song” by Neil Young and Graham Nash

Rhino Records official website