Album: Israel Nash Topaz
- Credit: Archant
Like every artist over the past year, Nash had to adapt to the constrictions of the pandemic when putting his sixth album together.
Almost a solo effort, it sits in contrast to previous records, which were swiftly laid down with his musician friends amid a haze of blue smoke and empty bottles. While it takes a step back from the psychedelic, bells-and-whistles production of past albums, Topaz is certainly no one-man show; recorded by Nash in his home studio on a hill ranch outside Austin, Texas, it’s stuffed with languid grooves, layered orchestra and pointed social commentary that shines a light on modern-day America and the shortcomings of the human condition.
Somehow, it builds a bridge between scorched Southern gospel-soul, the politically-driven American folk revival and ‘70s psych-rock. A keen appreciation for the space between the notes is underpinned by a rootsy feel and the deft deployment of mellifluous guitars, a gospel choir and brass section.
It kicks off with Dividing Lines, a wonderful slice of country-prog; wilting slide guitar opens a brooding song that blooms with wistful trumpet and that evocative choir, as Nash’s lyrics cast a critical eye on the American fixation with political polarisation and conflict. It’s a stirring, beautiful introduction to a record that is genuinely stirring – not only majestic and soulful but often thought-provoking, too.
Down In The Country conjures a stifling late-afternoon heat with buzzing guitar, hazy brass parps and that gospel backing to Nash’s evocative, reedy vocal, which ruminates on the fate of unwitting rural types duped by self-serving politicians.
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Plangent slide guitar and harmonica underpin the sorrowful Sutherland Springs, which recalls the 2017 shooting of 26 people in a church not far from Nash’s home. Southern Coasts paints majestic, wide-open skies while closing track Pressure evinces Neil Young and Crazy Horse with Hammond organ, a grinding guitar solo and chugging rhythm.
Stay – in which Nash relives his upset at leaving his family behind for the road once again – is a five-minute heartstring-tugger of epic proportions, rising skywards with gently shimmering guitar, a bank of trumpets and palpable emotion in his voice, bolstered once again by that choir.
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A rare achievement of sage storytelling set to soulful sounds, Topaz is indeed a real gem.