Israel Nash With Coastal Clouds And Kyle Emerson At The Moroccan Lounge, Wednesday October 10th 2018
It is often too easy to label singer-songwriters with the vague, throw-everything-in-this-record-bin ‘Americana’ denomination. Israel Nash may come from Dripping Springs, Texas but his new album ‘Lifted’, which came out last July, does not necessarily resonate inside the narrow country brand, as much as his great-outdoors physique would let you presume. His songs bend the genre with style and grandiosity, and
The LA band Coastal Clouds opened the night with a charming series of songs which immediately gave me a Wilco vibe mostly because of frontman R. Rodriguez’s sweet vocals. The quintet used delicate keys and gently layered guitars and their slightly ‘60s-inspired tunes had a lot of heart with a mellow but moving sound, at times reminiscent of John Lennon, finding new beauty in heartfelt melancholia. Then, Denver-based Kyle Emerson gave us a set of his well-crafted songs, with a style more upbeat than Kurt Vile’s and more diverse Ryan Adams’. He certainly had the songs, as impressive as if they had been written years ago, with palpable folk textures, Beatles-que or even Dylan-esque sensibilities, opening some interesting road-trips, driven by psychedelic-rock soundscapes.
I wasn’t too familiar with Israel Nash’s music, but thanks to 88.5 FM, I had heard ‘Rolling On’ enough times to get hooked. I had visualized the song as a catchy summer anthem, although the lyrics, which are floating between poetic evasion and vibrant descriptions, were fitting to the vast-landscape vibe escaping from the music: ‘The eagle and the full moon will rise from the west soon deliver me to my land of sand and stone’, he sang during ‘Rolling On’, he chose to open the set with.
With his long blonde hair and hippie-Texas look, he could also have looked like a young Jeff Bridges, which could never be a bad thing, and if the Dude hated the Eagles, I didn’t hear much of this all-harmonies poppy Americana in Nash’s music, he was rather sounding like Neil Young. And when I thought he and his band were giving their best rendition of Neil Young and Promise of the Real inspiration, one of their maddening-good guitar battles during the epic ‘Mansions’, a song about ‘standing up against the man’, they came back for an encore with a fearless cover of Neil Young’s own ‘Ohio’… when you wear your influences on your sleeve, there’s no need to hide them and Israel Nash would rather be the guy to celebrate them with grace and inspiration.
On stage, he was vibrant, bouncing and dancing like a rain warrior, a vision inspired by the Native American embroidery in the back of his jacket, and the titles of a few songs on the setlist. ‘Spirit Falls’, ‘Sweet Springs’, ‘Northwest Stars’. The textures of the songs were coming from an inspired place, building a kaleidoscopic and deeply layered sound, including pedal steel and abundant guitar lines, with a psychedelic touch, which was sometimes flying around War on Drugs’ paths. His terrific band made the songs sprawl and glow with a wild rock ‘n’ roll spirit, while Israel’s powerful croon soared with confidence. And what a voice he has, delivering lyrics with a rare passion, carrying the songs high and strong, while he was shining with a brand new white and gold guitar – the old one had just taken ‘a nose dive’ in Austin Texas.
The catchy chorus of ‘Lucky Ones’, the second song of the night, opened my appetite for hooks, but the sound did expand with ‘Spirit Falls’, which had an almost Ryan-Adams refrain, while the guitars continued to pierce with fury and intricate arrangements. The Neil Young-esque ‘Sweet Springs’, a love ballad about his hometown in Texas, was more on the melancholic side, but nothing sounded truly melancholic, after all the new album is called ‘Lifted’, and his music is an invitation to get lifted, as he explained briefly between 2 songs: ‘An album I recorded to lift my own soul, and share with others because that’s what this whole thing is about, finding beautiful things… that’s where love lives, that’s where the spirit is. Whatever brings people together, music is a beautiful thing, it’s all about bringing people together and share with others.’
With this generous hippie spirit floating in the air, he continued to expand his psych-folk-country sound with an appropriate song about LA, which was exploring slower paths, while the glowing ‘Northwest Stars’ had more of these bluesy cathartic guitars,… I can assure you that, if you like swelling instrumental numbers, you would have been blown away.
Although he exactly knew where they belong, Israel Nash’s songs were shining in many directions, with many colors and tones, opening a sonic world, both familiar and adventurous with stories for the people and sunny sounds for their mind. There was an obvious grandeur to all this, with a voice which seemed to be ‘shouting from the rooftops’, as he sings in ‘Rolling On’. And if none of the other songs sounded like this first one, they were all looking for the epic in a peaceful manner, coming from a man truly eager to be… rollin’ on.
Northwest Stars (Out of Tacoma)
Who in Time