Martha’s Vineyard musician, selectman, and landscaper Tristan Israel, has just released a new CD, “The Sound After the Flash.”
A year in the making, Mr. Israel plays guitar and sings his own compositions, some of them written several years ago, on the album. It is a highly polished presentation of some pretty darn good songs. Mr. Israel has performed many of these songs live on the Vineyard in his kind of rough streetcorner balladeer style. They clean up really well on this CD.
The stellar contributions of the backup musicians, playing buddies Paul Thurlow and Nancy Jephcote, have a lot to do with this successful upgrade. Adding the final touch to the finished product, Mr. Israel had the album mastered by Grammy-award winning audio engineer Casey R. Wood in Nashville, Tenn.
Mr. Thurlow sings and plays several instruments on the CD: guitars, keyboards, and bass among them. Ms. Jephcote brings the moving strains of her fiddle. Mr. Israel’s brother Mike, a drummer who lives on the west coast, plays on one song.
His first CD was released in 2004. Both CDs contain all-original Tristan Israel material, which is based in folk and American roots music, or, “suburban folk music,” as he calls it with a laugh. On this album he pays tribute to some classic styles, but in his own distinctive way. He is most always quick to smile in person and some of his music seems calculated to provoke easy smiles. A couple of his songs drift toward rock and roll as well, with very danceable rhythms.
There are many exceptions to his generally light approach on this CD. One is his plaintive song, “Maynard,” written for Island bluesman Maynard Silva, who died in 2008. It’s a beautiful tribute to the courage of Mr. Silva during his struggle with cancer, with a refrain of “I’ll wait for you.”
“Maybe I Am Someone” is a moving tune that poses existential questions about the nature of love, personal histories, and identity.
Never one to avoid topical issues, Mr. Israel’s song “Bonobos” is a plea for help to save the bonobo, the closest living primate relative to humans, which live in a vanishing forest in the Congo.
The CD package was handsomely designed by Anthony Esposito who also took all the photos except the pleasing cover photo of pealing paint taken, which was taken by West Tisbury artist Allen Whiting.
Tristan Israel, who turns 64 in a couple of weeks, figures he has been a Tisbury selectman for 19 years, a landscaper since he moved to the Island full-time in the 70s, and a musician for longer than either of those. “I’ve been playing music all my life,” he says. He was in a band called The Penciltappers in the early 70s playing with his brother and another musician in bars and coffee houses in and around Cambridge.
He first came to the Island as a teenager with friends from the Westchester, New York, and southern Connecticut area. Mr. Israel is married to Island fisherwoman and taxidermist Janet Messineo. They have a 23-year-old son who now lives off Island.
The Sound After the Flash is available at most all online music sources and on the Island at aboveground Records, Alley’s General Store, and Island Entertainment. It is listed on the WMVY Local MusiCafe website.
CD Release Party, 7 pm, Sunday, Oct. 7, The Pit Stop, Oak Bluffs. Paul Thurlow and Nancy Jephcote will accompany Mr. Israel.