Although out at the end of 2014 - Kenneth J Nash's The Fall Of Eden becomes my second essential listen of 2015.
It grabbed me right from the first listen and has not let me go since. It is on constant repeat on my mp3 player and in the car on cd.
Having been on the music scene for quite a few years, I had not heard of Kenneth until I discovered the album. So it goes to show that even someone who listens to as much music as I do can still be surprised at who is out there plying their trade on the UK music circuit.
Firstly, let me say, that although the album sounds fine on download (and Spotify) it sounds phenomenal on CD - so if you're tempted to get a copy - which you must - get the CD version (direct from Ken via his website) - you'll be glad you did. Oh, what a sound vinyl version would produce.
The album starts with a small drone of what appears to be an amplifier and a gorgeous acoustic instrumental opener called Eden - this small instrumental track sets the tone for what is to come on the rest of the album. Guitars and an accordian float the track into the first song of the album Slow Burn. Then Ken comes in with his deep, rich voice. Sounding world weary and laden, his smoky burr warms like a whisky on a cold night.
Fran Taylor's backing vocals give the song that eerie feminine aspect that recurs throughout the album. It is a beautiful colour that is both unexpected and is integral in what Ken and his musicians are trying to convey.
Carol Ann comes next, introduced by some beautiful acoustic guitar work and some really gorgeous tuned percussion. It's here you can really hear the love that Ken has put into the production. Clear as a bell, indeed.
The album is very much an acoustic based experience with acoustic bass, harmonica, fiddle, cello, mandolin, harp and accordion supplemented intelligently by the electric guitars & keyboards.
I don't really want to dissect what I read into the lyrics but fair to say that they are about love & loss, relationships, rebirth and hope. You will make of them what you will. I'm sure you can find experiences of your own to reflect what Ken is trying to say in these songs.
With woodwind and cello to the fore, the track Take Me Home calls to mind Nick Drake.
I think that the 'Englishness' of the album is something that resonates and indeed attracts.
One of the aspects that I love most about the album is the decision to use natural sounds to help paint the sound pictures.
This can be seen in the track St Mary's Heart which is introduced and closed by the peals of the bells of St Mary's Church in Rushden. It's a gorgeous song with an almost underlying blusey feel beneath the acoustic guitar and upright bass. And once again sterling vocals by Fran Taylor.
The key track for me on The Fall Of Eden is the 8.24 minute The Way She Moved. We have already been given an appetizer with St Mary's Heart and The Way.. just takes it up a notch in emotional intensity, widescreen but intimate production and performance. It is the best song I have heard so far in 2015 and is a real tour-de-force.
Opening with the buzz of an amplifier the track builds from a haunting electric guitar arpeggio into a gloriously understated, hymnic song. It's almost a tone poem. Ken delivers the vocal like he is reading poetry, an almost spoken, whispering hush. The song fades beautifully into a cello and acoustic guitar motif which is then overtaken by the sounds of crashing waves upon a shore. Only to be ressurected into a simple harp, accordion and female vocal as those waves continue to crash. It's SO moving.
Following the songs Come Show Me Your Love and Strong - we are taken by a small instrumental piece, The Fall Of Eden (i) into the albums closing track The Fall Of Eden (ii).
The title track is another beautifully realised song. Acoustic guitars, harp and keyboards - and I won't spoil the surprise of the final moments of the album. Such a stunningly simple and beautiful touch. Very much in the same vein as Jones' To The Bone album closer.
The Fall Of Eden is a beautiful, beguiling record that draws you in by it's delicacy and honesty. It has certainly set the bar high for the rest of my 2015 listening.
Totally essential in your collection.
Twitter - @Kennethjnash