The Barry Sisters
Somehow I’ve become the Go-To Goy here at Ink 19. I’m not Jewish, don’t speak the language, and hate cream cheese, but I love Klezmer music. I recently became aware of The Barry Sisters and their Yiddish pop music stylings through NPR’s Yiddish Radio Project. Up until the ’60s, New York had a number of 50 watt storefront radio stations, each literally covering nothing more than the immediate neighborhood. The programs talked about Yiddish swing music which covered the original but translated the languages. The snippets on NPR were a scream and now I have some of the real stuff right here.
The Barry Sisters began as Claire and Minnie Bagleman, but changed to Barry to get wider appeal. Good move: they sang on Ed Sullivan and The Jack Paar show. No novelty act, these girls can belt folk and show tunes in clear, lovely voices, and usually in Yiddish. Sometimes the transition can make you jump a bit, “Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head” just feels a bit weird, sort of like the first time I heard a polka version of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree.” More effective are “Cabaret” and “Alice Blue Gown” — these are songs that have a bit more of a European feel, but the best stuff here are the show tunes “Mame” and “Tea For Two.” If there’s Jewish music that doesn’t have a clarinet, it’s Broadway.
This slightly off-beat record doesn’t lose its appeal after just a few listens. The Barry sisters are classic entertainers, just like Liberace and Sinatra. They just use a different language, and it reminds me of the corny stuff my folks enjoyed. Don’t think of this as an ethnic record, think of it as retro, oh hipster soul brother of mine.