Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Just Plain Folks

Ari from KlezmerShack sent a note around today that Just Plain Folks had posted their 2008/2009 Album Award nominees. And, drumroll, it include a section of klezmer albums and a separate section of Jewish albums. JPF self-describes as "a community of over 51,500 Songwriters, Recording Artists and Music Industry Professionals — and host to the world's largest independent music awards." Ok. Not exactly plain you and me folks, more like "just plain music industry folk." This made me doubly interested. Who have the fine folk of the JPF annointed this year in these categories that I love. Would I recognize them? Have I written about them? (Do I even like them?) Adventure!

So here are the lists, in the order presented on the website. I've inserted links to the respective artists web-pages and links to my blog posts, when appropriate.

Jewish Album Nominees

1. Todd Herzog "Bridging the Gap" -(Teruah Post, CD Baby) I'm happy to see Todd Herzog on the list. I don't typically enjoy sappy Reform post-songleaders (sorry to fans of the genre) but somehow he turns it into something gripping. His album was in heavy rotation for a while.

2. Rebecca Teplow. "Kaveh-Hope" - (Teruah Post, CD Baby) Yay Rebecca. Another album that was in heavy rotation for a while. Teplow's got a fantastic voice and her alterna-rock-cabaret arrangements are both genre-defying and intensely satisfying.

3. Lisa Miriam Silver "Mosaic" -(CD Baby) I wasn't familiar with Silver, though evidently she's been around a long time doing Nashville session work and scoring a Grammy nomination. Her album, Mosiac, showcases her work as Music Director/Cantorial Soloist of Congregation Micah in Brentwood (Nashville), Tennessee. Honestly, on my quick listen it didn't grab me. Nicely executed but pretty standard pop-liturgical fare.

4. Rebecca "P'tach Libi - Open My Heart" (CD Baby) Another new one for me and another fairly straightforward influenced pop-liturgical album. Rebecca's got a better voice and better execution than many but the arrangements are straight out of the 70's with not much distinguish them. I think this one might grow on me, though. I'll have to give it another listen later.

5. Jacob Balshan "Queen of the City" (CD Baby) Another new one. Balshan's album is a set of gravely-voiced Israeli Hebrew folk-pop ballads. I found it engaging and may have to pick a copy.

6. Yaakov Chesed "Rise Above" (CD Baby) Here's a surprise. After a string of 1970's veterans, comes a young Orthodox rock band. Not my favorite (which would be Blue Fringe) but not bad.

7. Sam Glaser "Sam Glaser's Rockin' Chanukah Revue" (Teruah Post 1 and 2, CD Baby) Sam Glaser is one of the hardest-working guys in Jewish music these days. I've got a stack of albums on my desk and have I've included his videos a number of times. I don't love his music (hmm, I'm detecting a theme here), it runs a bit to much to parody and big, easy, feel-good rock chords and sing-along lyrics for me. But no doubt he's got a big fan base out there. His Chanukah album is fine, though it doesn't (ahem) hold a candle to the recent and more spirited Shiralala Chanukah.

8. The Shirettes "Sunny Days with the Shirettes" (CD Baby) Here's another new one for me. This is a fun kids album. Without my junior reviewers (ages 4 and 6) to give it a listen, I'm not sure how it compares with their favorite Shiralala Chanukah or Craig Taubman's Newish Jewish Discovery, but it sounds good enough to give it a try.

9. JEWMONGOUS "Taller Than Jesus" (CD Baby) This is "Jewish Hipster" comedy by Sean Altman of Rockapella and the GrooveBenders. It includes one of my all time favorite songs "They Tried To Kill Us (We Survived, Let’s Eat)" (Though I like version by ex-Altman collaborator Rob Tannabaum better) and the satirical faux-Irish drinking song "Christian Baby Blood."

10. Trio Helene Engel "Voyage" (CD Baby) I was sure I'd writen about Helene Engel at some point, but I can't find the post. Regardless, I've known Engel's work for a while. She's a well known Canadian vocalist who sings Jewish folklore songs in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Judeo-Spanish, English, and French. I love this album am delighted it made the list.

It's been fun going through this list. I'm not sold that this represents the best of Jewish music from the last two years, not by a mile. But there are some solid albums on the list, with Rebecca Teplow and Trio Helene Engel leading the way. Given that artists need to be aware of the contest and submit their music, it's not surprising that Orthodox / Chassidic groups are poorly represented and that the urban labels (JDub and Shemspeed) didn't participate. I felt bad being underwhelmed by the pop-liturgical recordings. I really love good liturgical work, it was just this crop that didn't grab me.

Anyway, it's midnight. I'll have to tackle the klezmer albums tomorrow.

1 comment:

sammish said...

Hey Jack,

I am glad I run into your site. Great info about Jewish music. I moved to Michigan 7 years ago from Iowa. Moroccan in Origin.

To me the real discovery in Music is the Yemenite Jewish religious chanting and choirs like that of the sublime Itamar Medina... It is heavently.... Of course also without forgetting the Jewmusic Box.

Keep up the good work.