One of music’s best kept secrets is Israel Nash Gripka, who recently released his third album Israel Nash’s Rain Plains on Loose Music. A fusion of Americana, classic rock, psychedelia, alt country and folk, Israel Nash’s Rain Plains is a musical coming of age for Israel Nash Gripka. Israel Nash’s Rain Plains surpasses his two previous albums, 2009s New York Town and 2011s Barn Doors and Concrete Floors. As albums go, Israel Nash’s Rain Plains should be a game changer. I’ll tell you why, after I’ve told you about Israel’s career so far.

Originally, Israel Nash Gripka was born and brought up hight is the Ozark mountains in  the Missouri countryside. From an early age, Israel loved music. It was his passion. Then in 2006, Israel left Missouri, to follow his dream of making a career out of music.

As any musician knows, there’s no such thing as an overnight success. Instead, a musician serves an apprenticeship. That’s what Israel did. He spent three years honing sound. Through practicing and playing live, Israel was ready to record his debut album in 2009.

When Israel started recording New York Town, he was unsigned. The situation hadn’t changed by the time New York Town was released in 2009. Israel did what so many artists were doing, and released his album independently. By the time Israel came to record his sophomore album, he was signed to a record label and had a high-profile producer.

Barn Doors and Concrete Floors was released in March 2011. Produced by Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth, the album was released on Continental Records Services, who rereleased New York Town. On the release of Barn Doors and Concrete Floors, it was well received throughout Europe. Critics were won over by Israel’s unique, genre-melting sound. So were concert goers.

During this period, Israel was a familiar face throughout Europe. He was constantly touring and his first live album, Barn Doors Spring Tour, Live In Holland was released in 2011. Since then, he’s continued to tour. That helped sales of Israel’s first two albums. The more he toured, the higher his profile became. Then late in 2011, with Israel’s reputation rising, he decided to leave New York.

Having made the decision to leave New York, Israel relocated to Dripping Springs, in Texas. Having settled into his new home, Israel began work on his third album Israel Nash’s Rain Plains during the summer of 2012.

Israel Nash’s Rain Plains features nine tracks written and produced by Israel. He’s accompanied by a band featuring guitarist Joey McClellan, bassist Aaron McClellan, drummer Josh Fleischmann and Eric Swanson on pedal steel. This was the band that played on Israel Nash Gripka’s game changing album Israel Nash’s Rain Plains, which I’ll tell you about.

Opening Israel Nash’s Rain Plains is Woman At The Well. Straight away, you realize how similar to Neil Young Israel and his band sound. It’s not just the vocal, but the arrangement, the choice of instruments and they way they’re combined. If you close your eyes, it’s like listening to a lost Neil Young track. What follows is a fusion of elements of country, folk and classic rock. With guitars at the forefront, the rhythm section provide the arrangement’s melancholy heartbeat. Having set the scene, Israel’s vocal enters. Pensive, thoughtful, tender and heartfelt, it’s enveloped by the arrangement. As searing guitars are panned high left, an acoustic guitar that’s almost ever-present is panned high right. Adding the finishing touch to this melancholy, but beautiful genre-melting track are cooing harmonies. 

There’s a real country influence to Through The Door. That comes courtesy of the pedal steel. It provides a wistful, thoughtful backdrop, as the tempo drops. Then as Israel’s needy, pleading vocal enters, his band play around him. They leave space, allowing his soul-baring vocal to breath. The use of space is dramatic and atmospheric, adding to the emotion. Then it’s all change. The arrangement becomes  rocky and dramatic, as the band threaten to kick loose. Although they do it adds to the sheer emotion of the track where Israel unleashes a needy, heart-wrenching vocal. 

Just Like Water just meanders into being. There are similarities with Woman At The Well. That’s partly down to the arrangement. The guitar is at the forefront of the arrangement, with the rhythm section providing a thoughtful backdrop. Then there’s the pedal steel, which add an evocative, emotive sound. As Israel’s tender, melancholy vocal drops out, the pedal steel weeps, as if heartbroken, as drums provide a hypnotic backdrop. When his vocal returns, harmonies and searing guitars accompany him. By now, Israel’s won you over, with this irresistible fusion of classic rock and country.

Who In Time sounds as if Israel and his band are playing themselves into the track. It’s as if they’re just jamming and suddenly, find an in. What follows is a fusion of Americana, blues, country and rock. Again, there’s the inevitable comparison with Neil Young. That’s no criticism. Given the quality of this track, it’s a compliment. Tender and thoughtful describes Israel’s vocal, while his band play within themselves. The combination of a bluesy harmonica and the weeping pedal steel proves a potent combination. Especially when searing, crystalline guitars are added to the equation. What makes the song is Israel’s is enigmatic and his pensive vocal where he sounds like Neil Young at his best.

Moody and broody describes Myer Canyon. It almost rumbles into being, Meanwhile guitars chime, soar and sear. They’re almost menacing. Then it’s all change. What follows is akin to a song from the late-sixties or early seventies. Israel decides to combine country, blues and West Coast rock. Accompanied by harmonies, pedal steal, scorching guitars and an understated rhythm section, Israel draws inspiration from the past, creating a vintage sounding track that sounds as if it’s been recorded at Bearsville Studios, Woodstock during the late-sixties, early-seventies.

Rain Plains has you hooked from the start. That’s down to the combination of pedal steel and crystalline guitars. They create a dreamy, melancholy sound. Israel’s vocal taps into this. It’s tender and thoughtful, in tune with the harmonies and guitars that prove a perfect foil. When all this is combined the result should be a beautiful track. Then when the vocal drops out, for some reason, Israel and his band decide the time is right to kick loose and indulge in some musical posturing. Good as Israel and his band are, and they’re top class musicians, they pick the wrong time to showboat. Maybe a producer would’ve reigned Israel in somewhat? This slightly takes the edge of the track, albeit they get the back on track just as the song drifts dreamily into the distance.

Just a lone guitar opens Iron Of The Mountain. It’s as if the guitar is wondering where it’s heading. Eventually and purposefully, it plays its part on what’s best described as an understated and thoughtful fusion of Americana, country, folk and rock. There’s a melancholy sound to Israel’s vocal, as if he misses the mountains he grew up surrounded by. Especially when he sings: “make up for lost time.” As his emotive vocal drops out, chiming, crystalline guitars, harmonies, heartbreaking strings and the rhythm section combine. Then as if realizing what he’s missed, the band kick loose. This is akin to a cathartic outpouring of frustration and sadness, which proves moving, emotive and poignant. 

Gradually, Mansions unfolds. Strummed guitars, harmonies and Israel’s scatted vocal combine, before the track heads in the direction of Neil Young. As his band fuse Americana, country, folk and rock Israel delivers some of the best lyrics on Israel Nash’s Rain Plans. He breathes life and meaning in lyrics that are cerebral, descriptive and evocative. This includes: “you build your mansion on the rocks, just to find it sinking on the sand.” Then as the track builds, the band kick loose. Swathes of scorching, searing guitars are unleashed join the pounding, driving rhythm section. They relish the opportunity to showcase their considerable musical talents on what’s one of the highlights of Israel Nash’s Rain Plans.

Rexanimarum sees Israel Nash Gripka close Israel Nash’s Rain Plans doing what he’s been throughout the album, fusing musical influences and genres. Here, it’s the Rolling Stone and Neil Young fusing country and rock. There’s a tougher edge to Israel’s vocal, that sometimes, comes close to becoming a feisty vamp. As for his band they unleash waves of crystalline, scorching and chugging guitars. As Israel Nash’s Rain Plans closes on a  glorious, rocky high.

Israel Nash’s Rain Plans which was recently released by Loose Music, should be a game-changer for Israel Nash Gripka. After all, how many artists write, play and produce their own albums? Israel Nash Gripka did. What’s more Israel Nash’s Rain Plans surpasses the quality of his two previous albums. It’s also brought his music to the attention of a new audience. No wonder. From the opening bars of Woman At The Well right through to the closing notes of Rexanimarum, everything from Alt Country, Americana, country, folk and classic rock melts into one. That’s why most critics were won over by Israel Nash’s Rain Plans, an albums that’s the result of seven years hard work.

During the last seven years, Israel has concentrated on honing his sound and building a fan-base.  To do this, Israel’s spent much of the last seven years on the road. So much so, that Israel is familiar with many small and medium-sized venues throughout Europe. Surely, after Israel Nash’s Rain Plans the venues will be getting bigger, as will Israel’s record sales?

That should be the case. After all, Israel Nash Gripka is a talented singer, songwriter, musician and now producer. The only thing that can derail the rise and rise of Israel’s career are accusations that his music isn’t new. With its undeniable vintage sound and similarities to Neil Young, some people have wondered are we hearing the real Israel Nash Gripka? 

Granted there are similarities with Neil Young on Israel Nash’s Rain Plans and Israel sounds as if he’s been influenced by the music of the late-sixties and early-seventies. That’s no bad thing though, given how much important music was recorded then, Israel is neither the first nor the last person to be influenced by this era. However, there’s much more to his music than that. There’s the Atl Country of the nineties, plus traditional country music, Americana, blues, folk, sixties-psychedelia and rock. He’s taken this eclectic selection of influences and genres, then given them his own twist. The result is Israel Nash’s Rain Plans, a refreshingly eclectic album where each track offers something different and new. 

As musical journeys go, Israel Nash’s Rain Plans is one I can recommend. It’s a journey you’ll relish and revel in. Twists, turns and surprises aplenty await the unwary on Israel Nash’s Rain Plans. Each time you play Israel Nash Gripka, you’re guaranteed to hear something new. Some subtlety or nuance reveals itself. That’s no surprise though. Israel Nash’s Rain Plans is best described as a musical tapestry of influences and genres, and  should be the album that transforms Israel Nash Gripka’s career. Standout Tracks: Woman At The Well, Iron Of The Mountains, Mansions and Rexanimarum.


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