Israel Nash literally brought the spirit of Texas with him to The Bullingdon. He opened his set with a sprinkling of Texan Live Oak leaves on the stage around him, to the Indian drone of a tamboura. Chiming bells and a rumbling thundertube built the atmosphere until he soared into his latest release 'Rolling On', from the forthcoming Lifted album.
This was a solo gig, just the gentle presence of the big man and his acoustic guitar, with a few boxes of tricks to fill out the sound. Fans familiar with the expansive sonic landscapes Nash and his band create may have wondered how the songs would sound stripped to just six strings, but they're too well crafted to be dependent on ambitious production. It was a celebration of songwriting and performance by a mature, road-seasoned artiste.
A crowded Bullingdon was treated to a selection of songs from the new album, due for release in the UK on July 27, alongside tracks from Silver Season, Rain Plans and Barn Doors and Concrete Floors. In between, Nash told us tales about the writing of the new album and family life in Dripping Springs, Texas.
There was a genial informality to the evening, which felt more like a classy busking session than a concert by a highly regarded rock and roll singer. So we weren't surprised when Nash abandoned the fourth wall altogether and came to stand with us on The Bullingdon's properly sticky floor (all respectable rock clubs must have sticky floors) to perform 'Evening' and 'Louisiana' entirely unplugged. He shared out his bells and percussion so we could all jam along.
He was clearly having an infectiously great time and professed his love for playing in the UK. He's back with the full band in November.
Lifted has been a long time in the making and gives full expression to Nash's musical philosophy. 'Rolling On', 'Lucky Ones' and 'Sweet Springs' all featured in the Bullingdon set and gave us a glimpse of what's in store. Nash told us how he had gone out into the landscape around his Plum Creek studio to capture the sounds of nature around his creative haven.
"It's a place to write and reflect," he said, "a space to get away and make time for enquiry. Music takes us out of the institutions that keep us apart. It's a spirit that connects us with each other and inspires us."
He's right. It even works on a stuffy Thursday night in Cowley Road, if you have someone as genuine and unassumingly gifted as Israel Nash to lift your spirits a little higher.