Songs of Experience: 'the fall of Eden' by Kenneth J. Nash
There's not much that satisfies more than getting an album as good as Kenneth J. Nash's 'the fall of Eden' in the mail for review. His last, 'the brewer and the dealer' (I think that was in lower case too), was a sophisticated pleasure indeed; nothing I heard in 2013 surpassed it, although anyone who knows me will be aware of the enthusiasm I have for Dubvocaliza and the Scrumpy Bastards. But if anything, 'the fall of Eden' is an advance on Ken's last outing, with mesmerising production (by Mr. Nash himself) matching quietly dramatic songs of love, loss, memory, death and renewal. Here is an artist who has been through several circles of Hell and come out on the other side a better, because more humble, man.
Instrumentation is one of the keys to the beauty of this album. Mandolin, Irish whistle, cello and double bass give songs a full, luscious sound that recalls (to this poet) the aesthetic joys of the Island folk output of the early 70s, as well as nodding towards contemporary Americana; and to seduce you even further, Ken adds to these church bells and the sea. The waves, seemingly recorded at Brighton by Ken's cohort JM Jones (a considerable musician in his own right) come at the end of 'the way that she moved', a song in which Ken's gifts as a poet also show themselves. He describes an old lover (we presume) who 'just couldn't dance' but moved wonderfully anyway, guided by some inner grace. In the first verse she's listening to bad music, 'singing along out of tune with her long hair falling about'. How great is that? Then she's dancing under fairy lights in the night. I've had that image in my head all day now.
Lyrical marvels are everywhere, though, not least in 'Strong', probably the most naked song on the album musically, vocally and emotionally. We can guess at the story behind this from the dedications on the sleeve; no need to go into it too pruriently. But we all have loved ones who are 'sleeping on the other side', and some of them left in such a way that it's a fair question to ask, 'Would you be born again if you could?' Ken Nash reads William Blake and hangs out with poets as well as guitar players; but he can hold his own with the best of us.
The musicians playing on 'the fall of Eden' are too numerous to mention. Let it suffice that as a unit and individually there's no finer bunch on the circuit. One note should be added: Fran Taylor sings with Ken again and weaves her lovely voice around his in a way that she now owns completely. Busking these songs, the two of them might stop traffic on Abington Street--if the borough council ever finish the roadworks to make their benighted de-pedestrianisation something more than a massively unpopular dream.
'the fall of Eden' is available from kennethjnash.com or--I believe--at Ken's gigs. And you're bound to see him somewhere, sooner or later. This is an artist who works so hard he makes Bob Dylan's tour itinerary look positively lazy.