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Israel Nash Gripka - New York Town

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 25 / 6 / 2009

Israel Nash Gripka - New York Town
Label: Lasso Productions
Format: CD


Remarkable Americana on eclectic debut album from Midwestern-born, but New York-relocated singer-songwriter Israel Nash Gripka

The solo debut from Israel Nash Gripka has garnered comparisons to Ryan Adams, Gram Parsons, John Prine and even Richard Thompson. That didn’t exactly make me rush to hear the album ; I mean as great as Adams is for example is the world ready for a Ryan clone? But strains of Adams work are definitely running through the twelve original songs here although to be honest this wipes the floor with anything Adams has produced for a long time. ‘New York Town’ is one of those albums that has seemingly come out from nowhere, an unknown artist who, as soon as he starts singing on the opening song, ‘Evening’ raises a smile. The raspy, although a good two whiskey bottles and a fifty a day smoking habit less of a rasp than say Tom Waits, vocals show it’s obvious from the very first line of the song that here is something very special. The song starts like any number of acoustic-based Americana tunes, but within the first minute the melody is so firmly lodged in your head it refuses to leave and Gripka’s vocals make sure your attention is held throughout the song. By the end of the song you feel like you’ve just met a very old friend again for the first time in many years. I’d pay the price of this album for that track alone; the best opening song on any album this year so far. But when the second song, ‘Pray For Rain’, starts a strange thing happens, the harmonica drenched opening, which again you fall in love with instantly, gives way to what must be the greatest song that John Fogerty never sung. While the song itself also isn’t a million miles away from the Creedence Clearwater Revival sound, the resemblance between the vocals of Fogerty, their singer, and Gripka is uncanny. Now, I’ve never been a major fan of Fogerty’s work but here was a song that sounded like it was one of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s best. On playing the song to a Fogerty fanatic their eyes lit up immediately and confirmed what I felt ; on this song at least, Gripka has produced a song that, if given radio plays, would sell by the thousands. So two songs in and Gripka has already shown that he is going to jump musical styles and surprise us vocally while keeping part of his sound firmly in the Americana camp. On the third song, ‘Let It Go’, almost all traces of Fogerty’s vocals have disappeared, although they do surface slightly at times throughout the song, and Gripka slows things down to show a more sensitive side to his music. It’s at this stage that one wonders how this guy can wrap his songs in such gorgeous melodies time after time. It makes ‘New York Town’ one of those albums that instantly feels familiar while still sounding new. Take ‘Bricks’ where Gripka turns in a truly fantastic performance vocally, the emotion in his voice in the closing minutes bringing back memories of early Mark Eitzel. The chiming guitars at the beginning and running just under the surface throughout the song give no indication of the passion Gripka is going to display in his voice at the close of the song. It’s a remarkable piece of song writing and a stunning performance. It’s almost impossible to take one song as a prime example of just how good Gripka is. Each and every one of these twelve songs is a minor classic, a timeless piece of music with soulful vocals wrapped inside tunes that will never leave you. One gets the sneaking suspicion that on the closing ballad, ‘Beautiful’ where Gripka’s vocals are accompanied only by piano and vibraphone, that we are hearing the real Gripka for the first time ; all those Fogerty and Adams comparisons are fruitless here, the sound is pure Gripka, raw, stripped bare, and vulnerable but still bearing one of his striking melodies. This could well be the best album of its kind since Ryan Adam’s ‘Heartbreaker’ took us all by surprise many years ago. If Israel Nash Gripka can keep up this standard of song writing and performing he will rightly classed as one of the major talents we have right now. As a footnote, a nice touch is the black CD, one of those ‘back to vinyl’ discs that show that some thought has gone into the packaging of this album, which being the classic it will be hailed as in years to come, is no less than it deserves.

Track Listing:-
1 Evening
2 Pray For Rain
3 Let It Go
4 Bricks
5 You Were Right
6 Confess
7 Either Way
8 Let Me Down
9 Concrete
10 Don't Run
11 Pink Long-Stem Rose
12 Beautiful

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