Negativity is an alluring force and these days it’s easy to get caught up in it if you spend any amount of time following the news. To find positivity and channel it into art is a challenging high road to take. On his new album Lifted, Texas desert folklorist Israel Nash manages to offer a perspective on the world that is like a hopeful ray of light. Hope is, of course, something we all need more of lately and on Sunday, October 14 Nash and his band brought a healthy dose of it to the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR.
When the band launched right into “Rolling On”, the opening track on Lifted, it was clear they would be leaning heavily on the new album throughout the set. With its psych pop, almost choir-like harmonies, the song washed over the audience before the sprawling and upbeat “Lucky Ones”, the latter of which is the catchiest, most “radio-friendly” song on the album. There would only be a few instances of Nash revisiting his earlier work, and the first came just three songs in with “Rexanimarum,” the euphoric and twangy tune off 2013’s Rain Plans that marries soul and the heavy influence of Neil Young. Nash would revisit Neil Young later in the set with an explosive and jam-heavy cover of “Ohio”. Compared to new songs like the feel-good, Brian Wilson-esque “Sweet Springs” and the acid-washed Laurel Canyon vibes of “The Widow”, older tunes like “LA Lately” and “Mansions” found the band flexing their instrumental muscles with extended guitar intros and heavy pedal steel work courtesy of Eric Swanson, who also pulled double duty on keyboards. It will be exciting to see the songs off Lifted performed live once they have been toured more.
Just over an hour had passed when the band wrapped up their set and said goodnight, which felt abbreviated from an artist who could easily let things drift. Closing out with “Rain Plans” – a song that defined Nash’s desert folklore sound – the band left the crowd happy but also yearning for a bit of a deeper dive into the albums before Lifted. Nonetheless, nobody was disappointed and everyone felt baptized in the positivity and hope that Nash has made it his mission to champion in these troubled times.
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