A: Their tall stature. Of Fleetwood Mac, Queens of the Stone Age and Nirvana fame, these three men tower above many of their rock compatriots.
Few can look these chaps level in the eyes, though I’d bet that Israel Nash Gripka could. Tonight he towers above the crowd nestled amongst the record shelves, and fills Rough Trade West with Texan warmth. For twenty blissful minutes we forget the yoghurt bars and charcuteries that line the streets of Notting Hill, and are transported to the hayloft of a farmstead, just two miles south of Austin.
Indeed, Israel’s songs are about his life in the country. This he proclaims, standing tall above his seated band, with greying hair, bulging beard and Ray Bans on. “Swing low Laura… Find me floating down the river of gold,” he sings with no need for a mic. The band all delicately harmonise behind his big voice.
Israel downtunes his unplugged acoustic and launches into another song from new album, Israel Nash’s Rain Plains. His head sways back and forth above his wide frame as he bellows “Bring your lovin’ through the door,” before the band slides back in behind him, lazy guitar strums meeting a heavy blues groove.
It’s a delight to see such a perfected Deep South blues outfit so well accepted by the crowd that stands amongst the rows of vinyl’s, in the very British trove of music geekery that is Rough Trade. One bearded fan sings along quite audibly beside me, but no-one minds – he’s clearly overjoyed to be here. Sitting upon their reverbed amplifiers, the guitar players chime and harmonise smoothly, each taking beautiful laid back solos that begin, then conclude, before a final chorus. I assume that this is a musical partnership going back years, but a quick after-show chat with guitarist Nick proves me wrong. “I joined on Sunday,” he remarked, “You just gotta listen.”
It’s sound advice. Judging by this evening’s show, the new record is definitely worth a spin, and if all goes to plan, Israel Nash Gripka’s appeal will hopefully match his impressive stature.
By Tom Phelan