on 16 April 2011
Israel Nash Gripka - Barn Doors And Concrete Floors (Continental Song City)
There's something about recording in the countryside that often brings out the best in musicians and songwriters. Whether it's Steve Winwood and Jimmy Page, or Bon Iver and Bob Dylan, a move to the sticks seems to get the creative juices flowing, and it appears to have worked for Israel Nash Gripka, too.
Produced by Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), Israel Nash Gripka's second record "Barn Doors And Concrete Floors" was recorded in an old barn deep in the Catskill Mountains. Aided by friends rather than the finest session musos money can buy, Gripka's songs become earthy vignettes to backwoods living. It's country music, but stripped back and from the heart and what it lacks in high-end production it more than makes up for with emotional clarity and a classic Americana feel. Fans of Keith Richards' ragged country-rock songs and Neil Young's windswept roots records would do well to investigate without delay.
on 14 April 2011
If `Barn Doors and Concrete Floors' doesn't bring fame and fortune to Israel Nash Gripka, well sir, there ain't no justice in this world.
Imagine a pinch of Steve Earle, a drop of Springsteen, a voice with the power of John Fogerty and a terrific collection of songs, all recorded in a barn in the wilderness of the Gatskill Montains.
The opener `Fool's Gold' is instantly catchy and radio friendly - hearing this tune played prompted me to check out the album - and `Four Winds' is similarly instant with killer hooklines, glorious melodies and singalong choruses.
One great song follows another. `Louisiana' is a fantastic, swaggering, raucous slice of country blues reminiscent of `Let It Bleed' era Rolling Stones. `Goodbye Ghost' is original and haunting.
Choosing the best song on this album is an impossible task - it changes daily for me. Today it's the beautiful and sad `Sunset, Regret', but tomorrow it may be `Drown', or `Black and Blue', or the stark, poetic brilliance of `Bellwether Road'.
Country tinged rock at it's very best - a simply outstanding second album from Israel Nash Gripka.
on 4 May 2011
When Israel Nash Gripka recorded a session for Bob Harris's Radio 2 show last year, it was immediately obvious that here was something quite special. His first album, New York Town (2009) showcased the songs that were part of that session, rough and rootsy Americana of the best kind, sung in an irresistible gruff and scratchy voice.
Barn Doors And Concrete Floors is the follow up to that first album, and delivers eleven new songs without a single duff one amongst them. Gripka's influences are worn quite openly as other reviewers have noted - Springsteen, Earle, Fogerty are all in there somewhere. There is a dash of the Rolling Stones' swagger ('Louisiana'), Son Volt's melancholy ('Drown', interestingly the title of one of their own songs), and Ryan Adams' angst ('Black And Blue') to top things off. All of this makes Gripka sound like the archetypal copyist, which he is not. Clearly his record collection is impeccable, but while he sounds like so many of his best contemporaries, the quality of the songs lifts this collection head and shoulders above the competition. From the first harmonica wail of 'Fool's Gold' to the opening acoustic strum of 'Sunset, Regret' you just know that these songs are going to be bang on the money, and they are.
As the album title suggests, Gripka's intention with his second release was to create an authentic roots record, in the pursuit of which he relocated his producer and musicians to a haybarn deep in the Catskill mountains to focus on making music. It is a notion that has paid handsome dividends, delivering a richer and warmer set of songs than its predecessor, full of careworn lyrics and soulful weatherbeaten sounds. On the strength of this release, Israel Nash Gripka has a promising career ahead of him; this is one of the best Americana albums to surface recently in a crowded field, and deserves to generate a wider audience for its creator.
I have had this for a while now and was sure I loved it, but I wanted to make sure I was going to carry on doing so before writing a review. And the good news is that it gets better as it defines itself on your sub conscious. Israel Nash Gripka has made a work of genius through sheer love.
Opener `Fools Gold' kicks off with a scorching harmonica riff, strumming guitars a Hammond and my favourite even a mandolin. It is easily classified as country/alt/rock, but those monikers do not do justice to such a heart felt delivery. `Drown' is one of those songs that makes me remember Steve Earle around the `Copperhead Road' era. It is one of those tales of woe that only comes out of having truly lived. It credits Mr Cuddles for barking too and the first fiddle playing courtesy of Brendon Anthony. Next `Sunset Regret' is one of those ballads opens with the line `Going down like brandy wine, oh Lord I need you now', it just works its way into your heart like this whole album does.
Track five is `Four Winds', this seems like a simple song, but that undermines the simple beauty of the melody and the lyrics. He uses imagery to paint a story that will pass you by without concentration -either way it works; and features a pedal steel too. `Louisiana' sounds like one that `Primal Scream' really wanted to have written, and that is a compliment. Keeping the geographical theme going, the next one is `Baltimore'; this takes it down a notch and has one of my favourite lines in; `You see the water that touched my lips, has turned to wine again'.
I am hearing the songs as I write this and the hairs on the back of my neck have just risen as I listen to the opening to `Red Dress', it's just a love story, but makes you feel like smiling and to my joy we get fiddle, mandolin, banjo, harmonica and great backing vocals. Penultimate track `Bellwether Ballad' is so pared back that it could seem out of place, but it just works. Slow and beautiful lyrics where he intones `but women and pain they never wait'. It ends with `Antebellum' with a more electric feel, still it is a great end to a rare piece of music excellence.
Recorded in a barn in the Catskill mountains, it has the feel of a low key but attuned production, and I can't wait to see these guys live and hear even more from them.
on 22 May 2011
An artist's second album is always a test of their potential. The first one has always been years in the making - all the trials, early outings, rejected teenage angst (hopefully). Gripka's first record "New York Town" is surprisingly mature in sound and production. It already sounds like it is several albums down the line from a debut. The press blurb accompanying this, his second, contrasts the urban setting of "New York Town" with the rural backwoods of the Catskill Mountains, part of the northernmost area of the Appalachian Mountains situated north of New York City, where these songs were recorded in a barn. The press were obviously grateful for a readymade story to help them pitch their ratings without having to LISTEN too hard - the reviews have been full of the barn narrative, and full of praise for its authenticity. Regardless of the northern location of the barn used to record this record, its sound is quite definitely southern soulful rock. John Fogerty, born in California, constructed and crafted his own version of archetypal southern swamp rock. Gripka despite being born to a Baptist minister in the Ozark mountains in Missouri, also constructs his southern sound. And like Fogerty before him, it is brilliant. To this reviewer's ears it has nothing to do with a barn, and everything to do with stubbornly resisting the pressures that often mire the problem of the follow up album. How many artists have found their work overwhelmed by the ego of a name producer, been flattered into letting the record company bring in countless name musicians only interested in themselves? If the barn is a metaphor for "I kept well out of the way of the perils of the record company studios" then so be it. Listen to this together with Lou Ford (Empty), Roky Erikson (Goodbye Sweet Dreams), Halfway (Favour for a Friend), Loomer (Burden of Proof) and Tom Petty and you have "Something Good Coming".
on 25 December 2011
A few weeks ago I knew nothing of Israel Nash Gripka. I had been searching for another artist and in doing so this album came up. Something about the cover caught my eye and I decided to investigate further. All the reviews associated with this release were very positive and what is more the reference to being similar to the Stones' Exile on Main Street prompted a quick on line sample listen which in turn was enough to prompt me to order. Israel Nash Gripka is the real deal, this is simply superb country rock / classic rock. If you like Ryan Adams / Counting Crows / late 60s to early 70s Stones / Primal Scream you will get an idea of what to expect. There are touches of all the afore mentioned artists throughout, though to my ears the Counting Crows comparison is possibly the closest. Several reviewers had mentioned that fans of Springsteen / Neil Young /Steve Earle & John Fogerty would like Israel Nash Gripka and I would include with those John Mellencamp. His song writing can mix it with any of these artists, his vocal delivery is superb and the melodys get under your skin. It is always a delight to come upon an artist who is not that well known and spread the word. Most of those who have already reviewed this release have covered the bases, and there really is not alot to add other than to urge you listen and hope you enjoy. I for one will look into his earlier releases.
on 1 July 2011
I haven't heard his debut and that is something I need to rectify asap.
What I hear most of all on this second outing are the melodies of the Jayhawks but without the harmonies.
I'd call this country rock at its best. Magnificent songs, great playing without overdoing it.
Let's not mention the fact that this was recorded in a barn.
It simply is beautiful well crafted music from a future star.
on 18 June 2011
I confess I have only heard the samples on Amazon but the wow factor moved me to create a short review in its praise. Whilst not a copy in any way this music evokes shades of Neil Young and also The Stones excellent country excursions around the time of Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street. Maybe the song titles "Black and Blue" and "Four Winds" are a nod in those directions? With strong song writing that draws you in and instruments played with skill and feeling, this stood out as something special from end to end and is definitely on my buy list. I cant wait to hear it all and especially how the last track Antebellum develops instrumentally. Fans of this might like to check out the excellent and slightly more contemporary sounds of Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (particularly the album of the same name).
on 14 December 2011
I was first introduced to Mr Gripka playing live as one of the participants in the Light of Day European Tour 2011. I was absolutely blown away by his songs and passionate acoustic performance at the Colwyn Bay gig.
I wholeheartedly agree with the previous reviewers ,they seem to have it spot on. Not since Counting Crows 'August and everything after" ,has an album affected me as much.
This is a work of pure genius, in my opinion and manages to capture the essence of his live show.
Of course, we can now buy the 2011 tour album, which is also excellent, but buy 'Barn Doors and Concrete Floors' unresevedly. You will play it forever.
on 18 February 2012
Now here's a thing. I stumbled across this guy by complete chance. Uncut magazine had a feature on CCR and gave away a CD of "music in the style of CCR" which included four stand out tracks, one of which was "Louisiana" from this album. The bottom line is that while "Louisiana" stands out on a compilation CD it doesn't stand out on an album like this which is, front to back, solid gold tracks. There will always be a special place in my heart for "Louisiana" simply because I hread it first but "Fool's Gold", "Drown", "Four winds" and "Baltimore" are right up there and the rest aren't far behind. Buy this, you won't regret it - and with your spare change buy Jeffrey Foulault's "Ghost Repeater". Listen to the two back to back and be transported to another world.