Music Reviews

The Klezmatics



Wow, damn, another Klezmatics reissue on Rounder. This album by America’s Greatest Band was originally released way back in ‘97, and it’s a little departure for ‘em. The first part is pretty much standard Klezzies: great songs based in timeless Jewish and gypsy music, done with passion and precision the likes of which can’t be found anywhere else these days. You won’t be forgetting Frank London’s arrangement of the traditional klezmer tune “Shvarts un Vays” (“Black and White,” for you Yiddish-impaired folks) anytime soon – both Matt Darriau (saxophone) and Alicia Svigals (violin) play the solos of their lives, and it’s hard as hell, baby.

There are a few more things on this first half that deserve special mention. The opening track, “Shprayz Ikh Mir,” is a hilarious drinking song; Svigals does a wonderful job adapting playwright Tony “Angels in America” Kushner’s lumpy dreamy words into a neat song on “An Undoing World”; and the great “Mitzmor Shir Lehanef (Reefer Song)” is a dusted-out tribute to kanabis, complete with echoey spacy clarinet solo. Above all these songs soar Lorin Sklamberg’s stunning tenor voice, beneath them all the rhythm section of David Licht and Paul Morrissett thumps away nicely. It could not possibly be better.

The second part comes from Kushner’s adaptation-play, A Dybbuk: Between Two Worlds, and it’s a bit different, given its origins – it sounds soundtracky, and doesn’t have the freedom that The Klezmatics should always have. But it’s still pretty amazing, and flows together like a dream, and features the creepiest wedding tune ever, the Kushner-lyricked “Fradde’s Song.” And make sure you don’t trust the track listing, y’all, or you’ll miss a great bonus track in “Eyn Mol.” It’s another drinking song, arranged by Sklamberg, and I want it played at my funeral.

All in all, another sweet one from The Klezzies – but not a good first disc. Start with Rhythm And Jews or Jews With Horns if you want a starter; this one’s a bit deeper and less immediately lovable. But it is quite lovable indeed.

Rounder Records:

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