Israel Nash (from the album Topaz, Desert Folklore Music) (by Chris Wheatley)
‘I grew up in little churches that were in the middle of nowhere in Missouri’, says singer-songwriter Israel Nash, whose latest work, Topaz sees the light of day this month (March 2021). Israel Nash is something of a musician's musician, a thoughtful, cerebral artist who earned himself a degree in political science whilst moonlighting as Rock band leader at night. Six years spent in New York saw him gain plaudits from broadminded music publications such as MOJO, and a growing number of appreciative fans. Nash is a person whose roots never really left the country. Following the Big Apple adventure, he and his wife invested in their ‘forever home’; a small acreage in Dripping Springs, Texas.
Topaz was recorded over the space of a year, in a hut-studio hand-built on Nash's property. It's largely a solo effort, though musician friends from Austin contributed. Israel Nash clearly relished the freedom to record, any time, day or night. ‘It's allowed me to capture sounds and ideas, to really get stuff out of my head and into the world’ he says. “Dividing Lines” opens the album with haunting guitars and slowly-unfurling beats, reminiscent of the eerie, universe-echoing sounds of Pink Floyd. Subtle horns, whirling guitars, and stirring percussion rise and fall adorned by choral vocals. Nash's voice is charming, full of character and pathos, strong enough to carry any song. The arrangement spreads out organically into a delightful concoction of 60s-sounding brass, wide expanses of lush harmonies and striking melodies. It is at once both epic and personal. The only record this reviewer can think comes close would be Dennis Wilson's remarkable Pacific Ocean Blue.
From there on, Topaz continues to surprise and impress. On “Down in the Country”, Israel Nash sings with great conviction and passion over a wondrous haze of psychedelic-tinged beauty. Brass punctuates and embellishes; bright flashes of light through the multi-coloured dream fog. This is a track constructed from shade-your-eyes sunlight, limitless open spaces, and pure joy. Nash's knack for crafting compelling song structures is admirable. There's so much going on here yet it never feels overwhelming. Listening to Topaz is akin to diving into a shimmering lake in a high mountain pass.
“Stay” bobs and weaves gently, a dense-yet-supple affair with a deep, soulful feel. Strings and keys lift and drop, wind and turn. You'll hear shades of classic 70s Soul here, and Nash certainly has the voice to match. If The Beatles had recorded at Stax or late-period Motown, if you can forgive the journalistic short-cut, they may well have sounded something like this. The slightly harder-edged “Indiana” thumps and bustles, buoyed by those lovely horns and Nash's ever-relatable delivery… I think Gram Parsons would have loved this. “Pressure” takes us out with subtle Latin rhythms and strummed guitar. As ever, it's the small details Nash scatters like stardust which make the magic.
‘I hope Topaz can be a space for people to just feel’ Israel Nash says. ‘Feelings are what move us to act’. Feelings are also what makes this set so captivating. This is a record birthed by sincere and heartfelt pleasure in the creative act. Both lyrically and musically, there's plenty to absorb here. You won't regret taking the trip.
Listen and buy the music of Israel Nash from AMAZON
More information is available on the Israel Nash website