There are many advantages to having your own studio, but perhaps most exciting for an artist is the opportunity it provides for weaving endless, subtle detail into a record. Israel Nash has taken full advantage of these possibilities on his ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas, to create one of the finest Americana records of the year so far.
He tells us in this month’s feature that he was inspired by the production and creativity on The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – not exactly modest touchstones – but he’s succeeded in taking the freewheeling experimentation of these albums and paired them to his own folk-influenced songs.
Thus, the opening Rolling On is a down-home strum mixed with claps from an 808, massed vocals a la Fleet Foxes, organ and synth textures – at once resolutely modern and reassuringly classic. Looking Glass is slower, pairing Nash’s stately ballad with trilling trumpets, subtle strings and a watery production that would have suited Slowdive in their more abstract Pygmalion phase.
There’s a similar cavernous richness to much of Lifted, and an ecstatic feel to songs such as Sweet Springs, a hymn in part to Nash’s home town. SpiritFalls is more jagged, a Heartbreakers-esque track with an indelible, melancholy melody in its chorus and a cheeky nod to The Zombies’ Time Of The Season.
Devastated by Trump’s election, Nash touches on the turmoil in American politics, but most of the time on Lifted he’s calling for a deeper understanding among people – not for nothing is the album subtitled ‘File Under Hippie Spiritual’. By the time he’s reached Golden Fleeces, the final track on the album, however, he’s found some peace with impermanence. “If you stand too long in the river,” he sings, echoed over funereal piano. “Then you’re sure to drift away…”