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Sunset, but no regrets, on Gripka's storming second,
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This review is from: Barn Doors & Concrete Floors (Audio CD)
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.