Hey, have you heard the new Neil Young album? Itt’s one of the good ones, sort of a blend of On the Beach and Tonight’s the Night with slightly more modern production values. It’s everything you would expect: reedy vocal harmonies, steady midtempo backbeat rock grooves, tasteful Americana touches and aching choruses that build tension and then resolve warmly. Sure, there are plenty of recycled licks from well-known album-rock radio hits, but like a lot of other artists, ole Neil has a handful of ur-melodies that he’s been known to fall back on and this is no exception.
The opening track, Woman at the Well is impeccably produced, Israel Nash’s fluttery mandolin and Eric Swanson’s lingering pedal steel adding a lushly orchestrated ambience. The soaring, atmospheric pedal steel solo out is a gem, worthy of Bill Elm of the Friends of Dean Martinez. Through the Door, another catchy, anthemic tune has tersely strummed acoustic guitar anchoring more of that lingering, ambered steel. The pensive Just Like Water works an echoey call-and-response between gritty lead guitar and resonant sheets of steel.
Who in Time follows the same contrasting dynamic: ominously echoey, reverb-drenched electric riffs and elegant acoustic picking beneath simmering sunset steel. Myer Canyon takes an unexpected departure toward acoustic Led Zep (think Battle of Evermore) with far less bombast. The album’s longest track, Rain Plains is a mashup of Cortez the Killer and Only Love Can Break Your Heart, more or less.
Iron of the Mountain has either bass flute or mellotron (the latter is the more likely) underscoring the song’s early 70s psych-folk ambience. Mansions is the angriest cut, and features some nasty tremolo-picking. The final cut is Rexanimarum (fractured Latin for “king of the animals”), which sounds like The Band with beefier guitars and gratuitous Brooklyn references.
Uh, wait a minute. This isn’t the new Neil Young album. This is actually Rain Plains, by Israel Nash, the guy who plays mandolin and most of the guitars here. Who is Israel Nash? He’s a bushy-bearded guy who was just named artist of the month by one of the cool Austin radio stations. Guess it makes sense that if you’re gonna rip off somebody, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Shakey. In case you’re one of the many who couldn’t afford last year’s Neil Young show at that repulsive, cheaply prefabricated, already-rusting new Brooklyn stadium, or you slept on his Central Park concert the year before, Israel Nash is playing the Mercury at 7:30 PM on Oct 4 and cover is a vastly more affordable ten bucks. This guy’s music may be about as original as a Chinatown Rolex, but you can’t say it’s not good. He can play Neil Young in the movie when the time comes….or at least do the voiceovers.