In 2013 Israel Nash, Missouri raised and domiciled in Texas, dropped a bit of a bomb on the Americana scene with his album Rain Plains. Unashamedly indebted to the cosmic side of American music Nash’s album was like a long lost cousin to David Crosby’s If Only I Could Remember My Name, an album that boasted perhaps the finest line up of players from the West Coast scene ever. Crosby corralled Neil Young, Graham Nash, Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, David Freiberg, Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen and Grace Slick among others to make an album that didn’t sound like CSN&Y, The Dead or The Airplane despite their contributions. Instead it encapsulated the “scene,” the brief years of the high tide of the counter culture memorably described by Hunter S Thompson in Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas:
“There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.…And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.…”
Well, that was 40 years ago man and Nash probably wasn’t even born then (and is no relation to Graham) but Crosby’s album, like The Dude, abides, a high water mark for a particular moment in music. The chief reason for delving into it here is to dispel the Israel Nash is the new Neil Young thoughts that sprung up when Rain Plains was released and are sure to be repeated when Silver Seasons is unleashed. There’s no denying that Nash sings a lot like the young Neil Young, a nasal falsetto that points directly to Broken Arrow or What Did You Do To My Life but this forsakes the full sonic force of the albums, the lysergic lushness, the sheer bravado of Nash’s psychedelic soundscapes. He might be guilty of journeying into the past but no jury could resist the delicious layers of guitars, the sun kissed bliss and sheer joy of Silver Season.
Recorded in Nash’s newly built home studio (Plum Creek Sound, a 1,400 square-foot Quonsat hut – does he walk by and yell “more hut?”) and recorded analogue to tape, Silver Season is a companion album to Rain Plains, its nine songs mining the same seam although with more variety in its sumptuousness. A lonely pipe organ opens the album before the band weigh in on Willow, pedal steel keening brilliantly throughout over jangled guitars and possibly a banjo. There’s a bridge into the next track that sounds like an outtake from a spaghetti Western film before Parlour Song springs into life. Here Nash does sound like Young back in Buffalo Springfield days in the body of the song but the coda with pedal effects on the guitars whips up a mini storm before Nash grounds it all with a final verse. On The Fire & The Flood Nash’s voice is initially drenched in echo along with instrumental gimcracks that add an appropriate fuzziness to the song before he breaks like the dawn towards the end, his voice now screaming out. There’s some more sonic goofery on the intro to LA Lately, Beach Boys woodblocks and Syd Symphony strings lead into this glorious blissed out heat haze of a song, a hymn to the El Dorado of musicians and its narcotic delusions and perhaps the best song about LA since Cass Elliot’s California Earthquake.
Nash plows this field brilliantly. The guitars blossom and swell over a charging rhythm throughout while pedal steel and Mellotron add exotica. The best here is the exquisite Strangers which opens with an acoustic strum before climaxing on a tremendous and stratospheric guitar charged burst of Garcia like freak flagdom (with the ghost of Steve Stills urging them on). Nash closes the album on a cheeky note with his nod to folkdom on The Rag & The Bone, another sweeping slice of cosmic Americana which slides into his unique take on that old standby We Shall Overcome closing the album with a look backwards.
It’s true that Silver Season will partially reward those old hippies waiting for David Crosby to repeat his 70’s triumphs but Israel Nash has hit a lodestone that should satisfy anyone who likes their music somewhat blissed out and cosmic. Forget the acid, a few craft beers and a good listen will suffice.
Review by: Paul Kerr
Released 9 Oct. 2015 via Loose Music
Order via Amazon