One suspects that, had David Geffen heard Israel Nash in the days immediately preceding Neil Young signing to his label, he would have ripped up the contract forthwith, and one of the more notable chapters of musical folklore would have been consigned to the compost heap. Nash’s new album, after all, is like an heir apparent to the storied Canadian’s classic 1972 album, ‘Harvest’.
If you, like me, are a fan of being left in a crumpled heap of devastation at an album’s close, prepare to be floored. Not that I would wish, however, to give the impression that ‘Silver Season’ is anything approaching “bleak”, for taken at face value, it has a heart full of glorious sunrays and a soul laden only with love.
Beginning the album with a ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ type intro, eventually the utterly gorgeous pedal steel of ‘Willow‘ bursts in, luring us into a mystery canoe ride along the Rio Grande and through the majestic Texas hillsides. It’s an auspicious start and at this point, you’re lulled into thinking your journey is destined to be a constant blend of summer and still waters. “I live in hope,” Nash sings, he being of an optimistic disposition, and all is right with the world. And then ‘Parlour Song’ begins.
The contrast couldn’t be greater here. If ‘Willow‘ is a carefree celebration of nature and a full embrace of life itself, ‘Parlour Song’ is a solemn lament to the loss of it. It’s not immediately apparent, but this was Nash’s exasperated response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Connecticut in 2012, where 20 children and six adults were tragically robbed of their lives by a lone gunman, who then turned the gun on himself. You can feel the anger and frustration in Nash’s voice throughout this moody, claustrophobic piece, its focal point being the wearied refrain – amongst a swirling mass of psychedelic guitars – of “I’m tired of the people!” – presumably aimed, with a mixture of contempt and disbelief, at those who oppose the reformation of gun laws. “Sooner or later/We’ll surrender our guns,” evinces the Missourian hopefully, before crushing that dream incredulously with the sucker punch, “…But not until we’ve shot everyone“. It’s a truly remarkable song, high on emotion and crystal clear on point.
The following track, ‘The Fire And The Flood’, feels like a cheerful evening stroll through the neighbours’ Christmas light displays on a wet winter evening by comparison. I’m fairly sure that’s NOT what it is intended to convey, but, suffice to say, after the onslaught of its predecessor, it’s nothing if not a relief.
The recording of ‘Silver Season’ was delayed for four days after the Texas floods came and filled up Nash’s self-built recording studio with “water and muck”. Quite clearly, this had an effect on the compositions herein, most of them creating images in your head of rivers, oceans and rainfall, whether intentional or not. That said, though, it’s also a very radiant record that warms the cockles of your heart. Whatever they are.
It’s on ‘A Coat Of Many Colors’ that Nash most blatantly dons his Neil Young disguise, almost borrowing the vocal melody from the ‘Rust Never Sleeps’ opener ‘My My, Hey Hey (Out Of The Blue)‘, but giving it a personal tweak and a cosmic brood that colours and characterises this, his third, and best album.
I haven’t even mentioned the five other tracks on offer here, the best of which is arguably the smooth Americana of ‘LA Lately‘, but trust me, they are all equally stunning pieces. ‘Israel Nash’s Silver Season’ is, without exaggeration, an absolute masterpiece.