David Crosby teams up with Michael McDonald for new track, River Rise

David Crosby performs at O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire on September 16, 2018 in London, England
(Image credit: Burak Cingi/Redferns)

Even as he takes a victory lap with the 50th anniversary reissue of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s landmark Déjà Vu, singer-songwriter and acoustic guitar legend David Crosby has announced a new solo album, For Free.

The new effort will be released July 23 via BMG, and you can listen to the first single, River Rise, featuring former Doobie Brother and yacht-rock legend Michael McDonald, below.

Crosby made For Free with his son, multi-instrumentalist James Raymond, and the album also features several musicians who played on his 2017 album, Sky Trails, among them saxophonist Steve Tavaglione and drummer Steve DiStanislao.

In addition to McDonald, other guests include Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and multi-Grammy Award-winning artist Sarah Jarosz.  

Described as a “majestic and massively uplifting number,” Crosby co-wrote River Rise with Raymond and McDonald. Said Raymond, “River Rise came from wanting to write something very evocative of California, but almost with a country-song perspective – something that speaks to the empowerment of the everyman or everywoman.”

The album’s title, Crosby explained, comes from the included cover of the Joni Mitchell classic. “Joni’s the greatest living singer-songwriter, and For Free is one of her simplest,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite songs because I love what it says about the spirit of music and what compels you to play.”

For Free is the follow up to Crosby’s 2018 effort, Here If You Listen, which he created with Michael League of Snarky Puppy, Michelle Willis, and Becca Stevens.

In addition to River Rise and the title track, the album also includes a song penned by Fagen, Rodriguez for a Night, expressly for the project. “Steely Dan’s my favorite band and I’ve admired Donald a long time, so that was a thrill for us,” Crosby said.

Regarding working with Raymond, Crosby added, “Can you imagine what it’s like to connect with your son and find out that he’s incredibly talented – a great composer, a great poet, and a really fine songwriter and musician all around?

“We’re such good friends and we work so well together, and we’ll each go to any length to create the highest-quality songs we can.”

The final track on the album, I Won’t Stay for Long, was written solely by Raymond, and Crosby called it his favorite. “I’ve listened to it 100 times now and it still reaches out and grabs me, it’s so painfully beautiful,” he said. “I did end up getting a pretty stunning vocal on it, because it meant so much to me that I sang the hell out of it.

“One thing James and I both believe is that songs are an art form and a treasure – so when a song comes along that’s as good as that one, we’ll just give it everything we got.”

For Free is available for preorder here.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.