The US may finally be catching on to Israel Nash. For an artist so thoroughly steeped in Americana – born and raised in the heartland of Missouri and now living in Dripping Springs, Texas (a small town which proudly bills itself as the “Gateway to Hill Country”) – success in Europe has proven easier to find. His second album, Barn Doors and Concrete Floors, took the number one spot on the Euro Americana Chart in 2011, and his third (and current) album, Rain Plans, was released overseas nearly a year before getting an American release.
In fact, as he noted early in the performance, Wednesday’s show at DC9 was his first headlining show in Washington, DC. Nash and his band played through all of the tracks from Rain Plans (though not in the album sequence), as well as two songs from Barn Doors (“Goodbye Ghost” and “Baltimore”). In addition he debuted a new song, “Parlor Song,” a protest song against gun violence that Nash said will probably be recorded for the next album. Nash’s band – consisting of Midlake’s Joey McClellan on guitar and his brother Aaron McClellan on bass, Eric Swanson on pedal steel, and Josh Fleischmann on drums – managed to faithfully recreate the full sound of the albums, not a small feat for music with such full textures.
The comparisons to Neil Young are not unfair, and are perhaps even inevitable. The debt is clear, and at times an unaware listener might even mistake parts of Nash’s songs for Young at his peak. But there’s also a psychedelic component to his music, which was made fully apparent in a countrified encore cover of Pink Floyd’s “Fearless” which fit in perfectly with the rest of the set, as Nash managed to keep it fully recognizable and yet still make it his own.
The show was opened by local band Dead Professional, whose own alt-country sound made a perfect introduction to the evening. The band is playing next, in their own first DC headlining show, at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Valentine’s Day.
Will Rain Plans be the album where Nash finally finds his American audience? If the show at DC9 was any indication, the answer is a resounding yes.