New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Month: November, 2013

Classic 60s Psychedelic British Rock Sounds from New Electric Ride

New Electric Ride play catchy psychedelic songs that offer a wink and a nod to the 1965-70 British rock scene, more loving homage and period-perfect evocation than parody. Their debut album is streaming at their Bandcamp page. Among American bands emulating those styles with a similarly faithful, goodnatured tunefulness, Love Camp 7 come to mind.

The opening track, Mr. Bumblebee, has spot-on, trad 60s production values – trebly guitar, punchy/trebly melodic bass, a slow Byrdsy jangle groove with tremolo organ on the chorus. It’s sort of a less dense, less satirical take on XTC’s Dukes of Stratosphear retro-psychedelic project. “Never let them say that you don’t work hard, never let them say you don’t go to a bar????”

Bury a Mule sounds like it could have been an Abbey Road outtake if the Beatles had an extra soul/blues number left over from the Let It Be session. Ditto Lovers, which riffs on a purloined Beatles riff and hints at a familiar Abbey Road vamp that never arrives. In Chains reaches for a Spencer Davis Group/Vanilla Fudge organ soul groove, fueled by the bass and then an absolutely irresistibly watery, Leslie-speaker guitar solo. The final track here, Stone for Stone is the most modern-sounding one – if you buy the proposition that 1970 is modern – pairing pensive, echoey guitar with Rhodes piano, rising to an unexpectedly soaring chorus evocative of early Nektar (that band again – far more influential now than in their 70s prime!).

New Electric Ride’s latest single, All Who You Know, continues in an auspiciously heavier but also quirkier vein.

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Menacing Psychedelic Epics from the Frank Flight Band

If the Frank Flight Band‘s latest album, Remains, had come out in 1975 instead of earlier this year, it would be regarded as a psychedelic cult classic today. Much of it sounds as if could have been recorded then; they absolutely nail the moment right before metal and art-rock diverged. Ten-minute epics, and one that clocks in at more than twenty! Three-minute acid blues guitar solos with no wasted notes! OMFG! The whole thing is streaming at the band’s Soundcloud page.

This is a concept album with a persistent death fixation, sort of the long-lost, doomed sequel to Procol Harum’s A Salty Dog. Bandleader/guitarist Frank Flight’s tunes shift uneasily from major to minor through spaciously stark interludes that rise to epic proportions. It wouldn’t be farfetched to describe them as a British Blue Oyster Cult. Both bands favor straight-up rhythms, anthemic choruses and a surreal lyrical side that offers a leering embrace to the darkness. Frontman/lyricist Andy Wrigley’s gravelly vocals rise over a rich, lush backdrop of Michael Woodward’s multi-keys, the dual guitars of Flight and lead player Alex Kenny anchored by Danny Taylor’s melodic bass, drummer Dave Veres propelling the beast through the waves with unexpectedly subtle dynamics.

Although the first three songs are credited to Wrigley and Flight, pretty much the whole band contributes to the songwriting,  maintaining the uneasy mood so consistently it’s as if there’s a single voice behind all this. Every track here segues into the next one. The Ballad of Alice Grey opens and sets the stage for everyrthing afterward: first it’s a swaying minor blues, then it’s a surreal, chromatically-fueled Lewis Carroll art-rock epic. Woodward’s massive orchestration swirls symphonically – at one point recalling a swooping woodwind section – finally followed by the first of Kenny’s many snarling, searing yet terse guitar solos, this one with a grisly, vintage Robin Trower-style vibrato.

Dark Waters, an ominously propulsive seafaring narrative, offers a nod to Don’t Fear the  Reaper, then twists your ears as the guitar solos switch channels from left to right, followed by a menacing, Doorsy organ-bass-drums interlude leading up to an absolutely incendiary guitar maelstrom over the band’s titanic sway. The roughly nine-minute title track builds gingerly up and around a lingering guitar vamp straight out of the Nektar playbook, stormy synthesized strings pulsing over a hypnotic groove. There’s anger, and maybe murder here; Wrigley narrates a litany of disquieting imagery at the end as the band reaches back to the shoreline in a whirl of cymbals. By contrast, The Island offers a triumphant view of alienation – the guy in Veres’ lyrics seems perfectly content to watch the birds leave the shore for the sky (symbolism, anybody?).

Razor Glass, by Kenny, begins jangly and swooping before it builds to an ominous, rich Pink Floydian atmosphere. Allusions to Orbison noir, resonant Nektar-ish guitar, rippling piano, cascading synth and organ – not to mention Kenny’s mean, purist soloing – fuel this bitterly elegaic, phantasmagorical barroom scenario. Sinaloa, by Kenny and Veres, tells a gothic flamenco rock tale of death and destruction in a Mexican civil war that ultimately proves futile: it’s their Conquistador.

The final track, by Flight, is Cat, weighing in at mammoth Pink Floyd Echoes proportions. There’s so much going on here that chronicling it all would take an album-length review. In brief: jangly guitar and organ echoing Rhode Island psychedelic legends Plan 9’s Dealing with the Dead; a long, waterfalling organ solo straight out of the Dave Greenfield or Ray Manzarek playbook; more allusions to Nektar and the Doors; ominous, minimalist bass/drum grooves, evil churchbell samples, and finally, finally, a series of increasingly incendiary Kenny solos that go on for the better part of ten minutes but ultimately leave you wishing for more. As far as sheer herculean energy, epic sweep and intensity are concerned, no other band has done anything this year that can match this. There will be a “best albums of 2013” page up at the end of the year here and this one will be on it.

A Haunting Tribute to the Suffering and Resilience of Iran by Kayhan Kalhor and Ali Bahrami Fard

“So many moments,” murmured one concertgoer to his friend after watching Kayhan Kalhor and Ali Bahrami Fard play a shattering version of their duo suite I Will Not Stand Alone to a sold-out audience at the Asia Society Saturday night.

“The Jimi Hendrix of kamancheh!” his friend exclaimed. Actually, the instrument that Kalhor, the iconic Iranian composer and string player, had been using was a custom-made “shah kaman,” which combines elements of the Turkish tanbur, Chinese erhu and the Persian kamancheh fiddle. Fard also played a modern instrument, a bass santoor, which is tuned an octave lower than the traditional Persian hammered dulcimer and delivered a spine-tingling, richly resonant sound akin to the lower midrange of the piano mingling with a distant meteor shower of microtones much further up the scale. And while Kalhor’s compositions draw deeply on Persian classical music, this work is completely in the here and now. The Asia Society has been celebrating the music of Iran this fall, with a final concert this coming December 7 at 8 PM with the prosaically titled but exciting, jazz-inclined Iranian/Syrian ensemble Sound: The Encounter.

I Will Not Stand Alone portrays profound sadness, but also profound resilience. The people of Iran have suffered greatly under brutal repression since the late 70s (and before then, life under the Shah was no picnic for a lot of people, either). Kalhor’s program notes spoke to how music gave him and his fellow citizens hope throughout the darkest hours of the Khomeini regime. But this enigmatic, dynamically-charged theme and variations resonates beyond any borders: as an account of suffering and transcendence, it ranks with the most powerful works of Shostakovich or any western composer. And while the two musicians followed the arc and movements of the recording of it they released last year, this was hardly a rote, note-for-note rendition, each player following the other’s improvisations closely as it went along. It began elegaically, Kalhor using the shah kaman’s cello-like low register for a misty, opaque tone as Fard played hypnotic, rhythmic ripples or gentle, austere accents. But the shah kaman, and the kamancheh, can also evoke weeping, and there was no absence of that once the work got rolling, Fard’s elegant volleys and understated, artful variations on a recurrent chromatic vamp propelling it until then.

The musicians’ cameraderie was so tightly aligned it was often as if they were one and the same instrument; despite the sonic differences between the two instruments, it was often hard to tell who was playing what, not that it really mattered. Once they reached about the midway point, Kalhor took centerstage, much more animatedly than he usually does, quite possibly because this work is so autobiographical and close to his heart. He swirled through a circular theme for Fard to ornament, threw off a handful of lightning, spiraling descending motives and angst-fueled, leaping cadenzas, then finally backed away. Fard then moved in with a glimmer that was as precise and sonically exquisite as it was distantly menacing. A lively, even wryly amusing country dance fueled by Kalhor’s rapidfire bowing quickly got twisted out of shape and took on a macabre, maimed character. Leaping flourishes from Kalhor on the way out ended the concert with an exhilarating display of chops that still left a lingering note of disquiet. It is hard to think of a composer or a soloist who so vividly captures the state of the world in 2013 as Kayhan Kalhor, and Fard matched that intensity as well: this was as state-of-the-art as music gets these days.

A Carnivalesque Masterpiece from Kotorino

The cover photo on Kotorino‘s new album Better Than This shows an empty antique couch beneath a bright, mostly cloudless afternoon sky. It’s a considerably sunnier picture than the ones frontman/guitarist Jeff Morris’ songs paint, although the implied solitude is telling. Kotorino began life back in the mid-zeros as a creepy chamber-pop ensemble with something of a steampunk edge, which Morris has pretty much ditched for an even creepier, considerably more muscular circus rock ambience. He is as adept at latin music as he is at noir cabaret, with both styles represented all over the place here. If it’s still possible for there to be such a thing as a “breakthrough album,” this is Kotorino’s – the gypsy rock crowd, the oldtimey swing crowd, the noir contingent and fans of nuevo tango all get plenty to enjoy here. The whole thing is streaming at their Bandcamp page.

The opening track, What Is This Thing is a tango, Morris joining with his Charming Disaster femme fatale foil Ellia Bisker and the rest of the women in the band (tuba player Liz Prince, violinist Estelle Bajou and singer Molly White) for some pretty otherworldly vocal harmonies:

She put him on like a pair of fuzzy slippers
He let her down like a broken elevator…
They were packing it up and saving it for later
She was sleeping in the tub til they got some sunny weather
He was smoking again just to take a little breather

They wrap it up with a wry Dell Shannon quote and a big brassy outro.

North Star State is Morris at his enigmatic best: who are the guy and girl in this oldtimey-flavored duet looking for, and is that person alive or dead? The music is equally clever: endless volleys of counterpoint between the horns, bass and tuba and eventually a big carnivalesque brass-band coda. Going Out Tonight, a picturesque tale of a guy hellbent on springing his girlfriend from a mental ward somewhere in the Midwest, has a devious minor-key pulse: “Come with me for some rebellious exercise,”  Morris grins. He and Bisker duet on the album’s best and most menacing track, Murderer, a lurid crime-jazz number that illustrates why the perfect crime requires a lone perpetrator.

Never Had a Chance, a cha-cha in 7/4 time, is the liveliest and most surreal track here, packed with droll touches like breaks for fingersnaps and bass, a brief but momentous bass sax solo from Gato Loco‘s Stefan Zeniuk and a blazing Jesse Selengut trumpet solo out over an oompah groove.  Morris and Bisker get deceptively chaerming and blithe on the East River Ferry Waltz, before Morris lays on the cynicism – which turns out to have lethal implications, if you pay attention. They follow that with the morose chamber-pop tune Broken Carousel, another waltz, buildling to an unexpectedly savage Morris guitar solo and a big, majestically orchestrated crescendo.

The album’s title track is a nebulous, coldly ambiguous solo piano ballad. They wrap it up with Into the Sky, the album’s most phantasmagorical, epically sweeping song, pulling out all the stops for a cruelly cynical faux-gospel bridge, equally sarcastic girl-group harmonies and a typically blazing horn arrangement. As darkly evocative art-rock goes in 2013, it doesn’t get any better than this: watch for it on the “best albums of the year page” here in about a month.

Richly Hypnotic, Unique Middle Eastern Psychedelic Grooves from Painted Caves

Milwaukee band Painted Caves play Middle Eastern-influenced psychedelic grooves that more or less follow the Silk Road in reverse, back toward India. Their signature sound sets droll deadpan vocals over a hypnotic, clattering rhythm, a web of acoustic Middle Eastern instruments mingling with layers of guitar.  It’s safe to say that there is no group anywhere in the world who sound anything like them. The obvious comparison is New York kitchen-sink instrumentalists Tribecastan, although Painted Caves’ songs rock a lot harder, yet are also more hypnotic. Their excellent debut album is streaming all the way through at their Bandcamp page.

The first song, Ballad of the Office Worker slinks along over a wry faux-mechanical, clattering rhythm lit up by incisive oud and a wry Hendrix quote from the guitar. “It’s time we sell, we spend our time in hell, and spend your time in hell,” frontman/guitarist Ali Lubbad intones. Blood in the Water jams out a distantly ominous vamp over a tricky beat with qanun along with the lingering layers of guitar. The band’s namesake song, with its spiky layers of oud, wah guitar and flute, sounds like Tribecastan playing a classic Greek psychedelic rock song from the 60s – or like Trio Bel Canto covering Tribecastan if those guys had been contemporaties, an idea that isn’t as farfetched as it might seem.

Half-Human slowly and very subtly morphs from a clip-clop Malian-style duskcore groove into a reggae song, with a simple but spot-on anti-materialist message. As with a lot of these songs, it’s hard to keep track of the instruments – is that a sitar or a sarod? A guitar pedal? A steel pan, or the qanun again? – and who’s playing what. The next track is The Ocean, six hazy minutes of Balinese gamelan rock with Middle Eastern tinges that works a series of artful rises and falls as it winds out, with ornamentation that ranges from throat-singing, to reverb guitar and layers of shadowy amp noise.

The best song on the album is the eerie, chromatically-charged Morse Code. It’s amazing what this band can do with what’s essentially a one-chord jam, eventually winding down to a quietly creepy multitracked oud interlude that the guitar picks up with a slow-mo stoner surf vibe. Peace Bear looks backwards through freak-folk, the Beatles and minimalist Indian Baul trance music. The album’s closing track is part Bollywood, part desert blues. Won’t it be funny someday when music like this is totally mainstream, while straight-up four-on-the-floor rock songs are considered quaint and esoteric?

Cutting-Edge Bluegrass Banjo From Bennett Sullivan

Banjo player Bennett Sullivan‘s latest album, Lady Nora, is a cutting-edge, fun, upbeat mix of newgrass instrumentals. Sullivan has a unique and interesting style that uses both guitar and mandolin voicings in addition to more traditional picking, and his supporting cast of Ross Martin on guitar, Rob Hecht on fiddle, and Pat Falco on bass play with a similar inspiration and high-spirited intensity.

The album opens with a full-band song, the aptly titled Honey Butter and its flatpicked guitar lead over a rippling banjo tune. What strikes you fastest is how fast, yet how subtle Sullivan is, taking over the lead almost imperceptibly before handing off to more easygoing fiddle and guitar solos. The song goes in the direction of a reel for awhile before another spiky banjo solo. Sullivan follows it with the lively banjo/fiddle dance Howard’s Knob, which he picks guitarstyle. After that, the delicate, pensive, cautious title track comes as a real surprise: this Nora is a complicated girl, even if she’s very straightforward about it

On the Davidson, a briskly pulsing bluegrass tune, sets edgy banjo and fiddle solos – the latter with a deliciously bracing climb up the scale – over catchy but unexpected changes. After that, the band blasts through the lickety-split Si Si No No and winds up the album with The Hound, a bouncy but restlessly minor-key tune with a darkly bluesy undercurrent. They hit a pensive interlude with the fiddle as the rhythm drops out, then Sullivan rustles through a verse, then they break it down to a practically funky syncopation. Oldschool instruments + new ideas = good times all the way through. If you play, grab this album and get your hands on a lot of ideas worth stealing. Sullivan is at the small room at the Rockwood with this band this coming January 4 at 9 PM.

Kimberly M’Carver’s Hard Waltz: Purist Country Songwriting, Brilliant Voice

Houston songwriter Kimberly M’Carver has a voice that will very gently knock you out. It’s sort of a cross between Emmylou Harris and vintage Dolly Parton, with all the nuance of the former and the sweetness of the latter. M’Carver can sing clear and pure as a country spring, or turn up the vibrato at the end of a phrase for an especially heartbroken edge.  True to its title, most of her latest album Hard Waltz, is oldschool, purist country music, with several numbers in 3/4 time. Being a strong songwriter, M’Carver had no problem pulling together an amazing band to back her this time around, including but not limited to co-producer/guitarist Scott Neubert, singer/guitarist Claire Lynch, Little Big Town bassist John Thomasson, GreenCards fiddler Eamon McLoughlin and Elvis Costello accordionist Jeff Taylor. Fans of hard country will love this.

The title track opens the album with a lush bed of acoustic guitars and an accordion solo that hands off to a pennywhistle – it’s very Emmylou. with a little Celtic edge. M’Carver picks up the pace with the catchy newgrass tune Bliss Creek and then brings it down again with the sweet, sad waltz You Say That You’re Leaving. “Promises bend, souls they grow thirsty and love stories end,” she laments before the gorgeous blend of fiddle and pedal steel kicks in on the chorus.

Teardrops and Wine sounds like it’s pretty self-explanatory, but it’s not that simple, and the way M’Carver slides up to a note on the second chorus will give you chills. Rodeo Clown was inspired by M’Carver’s second cousin, who is the genuine item – but the song casts the singer in the role of someone who’s “always there to pick you up when you’re knocked down.” It’s a neat twist. Devil or Fool, with its slow-burning, blues-drenched slide guitar, makes a stark contrast, taking its inspiration from M’Carver’s many trips to Sugar Land prison to visit her brother, who was in for drugs and a probation violation.

It Never Gets Easy, a straight-up, backbeat country song with some memorable lead guitar, steel and fiddle work, ponders a frustrating relationship where “the heat of your touch turned everything else cold.” Redemption, with its resigned blend of country gospel and Tex-Mex, takes a haunting look at dead-end despair and alienation and draws inspiration from the suicide of M’Carver’s first husband. It contrasts with the next track, There’s Always Sorry, a make-up song set to electric highway rock with a sizzling, spiraling guitar lead. The album winds up with the gentle, jazz-tinged countrypolitan waltz Will You Show Me the Stars – dedicated to M’Carver’s astrophysicist husband  of the last 25 years – and the vivid, picturesque post-breakup ballad Another Goodbye Waltz, something that Lucinda Williams would be proud to have written. M’Carver has several other purist albums to her credit and has toured with Jim Lauderdale; if she ever makes it up to NYC, you’ll hear about it here.

Butchers Blind Revisits Edgy, Vintage Alt-Country

You watch your friends either sell out or get pulled under by the demands of the dayjob, or the marriage and the kids, and then you don’t see them anymore. Maybe that happens to you. Do you blame them – or yourself? Do you feel bad for them – or yourself – and wish that all of you could get your old lives back, fighting the system, going out and raising hell? Butchers Blind frontman Pete Mancini contemplates those questions on his band’s debut album Destination Blues, streaming all the way through at their Bandcamp page.  He sets his plainspoken, politically aware lyrics to a guitar-driven backdrop that evokes the early 90s alt-country of bands like Wilco, part classic country, part amorphous indie rock. That Mancini would have such a spot-on political edge comes as no surprise considering that he played lead guitar on Matthew Grimm‘s latest brilliant album. A Grimm bandmate, bassist Mick Hargreaves, co-produced (with Billl Herman).

The bitter country waltz Nobody Hears What I Say Anymore sets the stage for what’s to come, and it’s not optimistic: aging ex-punk rocker watches his marriage fall apart and his thirty years of steady employment go adrift as the self-medication gets the better of him. Tear It Down addresses the same kind of doomed anomie with a more aggressive, middle-period REM-ish vibe. The wryly titled OPP is not the Naughty By Nature hit but an original that sarcastically examines other peoples’ problems (rather than pussy) with a strong nod to Wilco. By contrast, the title cut, one of the album’s musically strongest, follows a janglier, more optimistic tangent that reminds of the early days of Australian rockers the Church.

Honestly goes back to the blend of country lead guitar lines over uneasy indie changes, with a venomously sarcastic lyric:

Always have to scream to make a sound
I hear the things you say whan I’m not around
Took your left and drew blood with your right
I was counting cards in the dark,  taking my time

College Town keeps the cynicism at redline, a knowing look at how wide-eyed idealism goes to hell as graduation and then the inevitable dayjob loom on the horizon. Drowned, with its rustic Appalachian bite, is even angrier, a dis at a guy who’s sold out and thinks that makes him better than his friends from his younger, wilder days. Young Again is a lot gentler, with jangly Velvet Underground echoes.

Mancini brings the edge back again with the slow, intense 6/8 ballad  Selfish Silent Films:

Your future heaven
Is giving you hell
A repeat performance
Scripts you can’t sell

Then the band picks it up again with Enough Already Anyway, a sideways salute to a nameless rocker who was obviously an influence although they never got to meet. The album winds up with its most stereotypically indie track, Burn Up Bright (Lower East Side), told from the deliriously exhausted point of view of someone who wishes his nights out in Manhattan didn’t end so soon, waiting for the last Long Island Railroad train out of Penn Station. Butchers Blind’s next show is at the Parkside next January 9.

Hannah vs. the Many Battle the Sound at Cake Shop

Hannah vs. the Many played the album release show for their latest one, Ghost Stories, at Cake Shop Thursday night. Frontwoman/guitarist Hannah Fairchild’s songs are lyrically driven, and the vocals were hit-and-miss in the mix all night, beginning with the opening bands and continuing through her band’s ferocious, roughly 40-minute set. So this was a chance to focus on Hannah the tunesmith. She’s just as strong with the tunes as she is with the words and the vocals (too bad there were issues, since this club usually has much better sound than in your typical bodega basement). Guitarist Josh Fox is her not-so-secret weapon, weilding spaghetti western/crime jazz twang against acidic postpunk chords, judicious single-note harmonies and roaring punk riffage. Fairchild is no slouch on guitar herself, wailing and tremolo-picking her Strat with a slasher menace as the drums pummelled and the bassist (yeah – this band has bass now!) played tight, melodic lines.

The opening number, Poor Leander – a lit-rock scorcher from the new album – got a menacingly scampering, chord-chopping  psychobilly edge fueled by long drum rolls over bridge and some paint-peeling vocals from Fairchild, whose vocals are even better live than in the studio. The twin slasher guitars on the twin suicide anthem All Eyes on Me led up to a cartwheeling bridge and then a false ending that faked out the crowd. Jordan Baker, Fairchild’s gentlest and arguably most haunting song matched her elegantly apocalyptic lyric to a quiet jangle that Fox finally lit into with some otherworldly swoops before the last chorus kicked in.

There were a couple of new songs, one that built from noir to a punkish scamper, another that worked a skeletal/explosive dynamic;. Fairchild’s song structures don’t follow any kind of typical verse/chorus architecture, and from the looks of things that’s not about to change. Her next song, Muse, galloped along with a scathing, bitter lyric: “No kiss is ever more than sugar sweet/No affection is ever more than river deep.” Then they took the breathlessly sardonic Biography of Cells down to just the cymbals and Fairchild’s guitar for the last verse. The equally searing Lady of the Court – another track from the new album – had a Fox guitar solo in place on the wry 80s synth on the album and was better for it. They wound up with an absolutely bloodcurdling version of the raging noir cabaret anthem The Party Faithful and closed with a sarcastic, punked-out cover of some mallstore pop song. A lot of people in the crowd sang along. but for others, it was a WTF moment. That Hannah vs. the Many’s songs are better known in some circles than, say, Lady Gag, says a lot about the state of the rock music world in 2013.

While Fairchild’s lyrics tend to be on the venomous side, she had a coy repartee going with the crowd and with her band – when her drummer called her out for wearing her underwear on the outside of her fishnets, she didn’t blink. That every guy on the Lower East Side wasn’t packed into Cake Shop to enjoy those visuals pretty much speaks for what’s happened to the neighborhood.

The opening bands were good, too, if not particularly tight. The 9 PM act, Toronto’s Fast Romantics, worked an retro 80s/90s Britrock vibe that evoked both the Smiths and Pulp without being arch or affected. The high point was a decent cover of Pulp’s classic anti-fauxhemian anthem Common People, which is almost 20 years old now but in a lot of ways was the perfect song for the night, considering what part of town the band was playing in. Pep, the 10 PM act, had a trio of women out front singing fetchingly catchy, Spector-ish 60s girl-group pop and oldschool soul.

Haunting, Eclectic Jewish Songs from Romashka’s Inna Barmash

Inna Barmash is the intense, inscrutably charismatic frontwoman of fiery Russian Romany string band Romashka. She’s got one of those rare voices that comes along maybe once a generation: a bell-like, bolt-cutter soprano that’s so clear it’ll give you chills. In a city stocked to the brim with great vocalists, Barmash is one of New York’s most rivetling. Hailing originally from Vilnius, Lithuania, she cut her teeth singing music that these days falls under the broad rubric of klezmer. Her debut solo album, Yiddish Lullabies & Love Songs, is a powerful and haunting return to those roots. The whole thing is streaming at her Bandcamp page; she and her band – including her husband, viola powerhouse and composer Ljova Zhurbin, along with along with Shoko Nagai on piano and accordion, Dmitri Slepovitch on clarinet and bass clarinet and Dmitry Ishenko on bass  – are playing the album release show on Nov 27 at 7:30 PM at Joe’s Pub. $20 advance tickets are still available as of today but it’s likely that this show will sell out.

The songs here, spanning several centuries and drawing from across the Jewish diaspora, are short and to the point. Likewise, the band keep their solos short and sweet as well. The acerbic minor keys and haunting chromatics typical of Jewish music echo thoughout the album, although there are lighthearted moments as well. Barmash sings in character – she can sweep your off your feet one moment and then rip your face off the next. She further distinguishes herself with strikingly crisp if seemingly nonchalant diction, an enormous help for listeners trying to remember or come to grips with the language. This blog being in English, the titles used here are the English versions provided on the album.

Wake Up Dear Daughter, the opening track, is a potent example of Barmash at the top of her plaintive power, a brittle vibrato trailing off at the end of her phrases to enhance the song’s sense of longing and unease. She does that even more affectingly on the album’s longest song, Ever Since I Remember, lit up with glimmering solos from piano, viola and then clarinet as it reaches its moodiest peak. She pulls back a little, adding a sense of resignation, on the pensive waltz  If I Had Wings.

Don’t You Dare Go Out with Other Girls, with its menacingly shivery clarinet solo, has a tongue-in-cheek bounce, but Barmash leaves no doubt that she means business. She contrasts that with the sweetly hypnotic lullaby Sleep My Child and its gorgeous viola/piano harmonies.

Afn Boydem (Over the Attic) is a duet that takes on a droll, dancing quality as it moves along and then goes straight into vaudeville.  Barmash brings back the nocturnal mood with Sleep, Sleep, Sleep and Nagai’s surrealistic piano, equal parts Satie and blues. Oy Abram is a showstopper both for Barmash and the band, rapidfire counterpoint from the clarinet and viola leading to a rich interweave of instruments – to the uninitiated, it’s the most recognizably “klezmer” song here. The rest of the album includes By the Road Stands a Tree, a wistful, skeletal waltz; Reyzele, which sounds like it could either be a tale of seduction or seduction gone wrong; and the triumphantly soaring Play Me a Song in Yiddish.