This a different sort of pairing, one both interesting and welcome. The principal musicians involved, the husband and wife team of Doni Zasloff and Eric Lindberg, aim to color old-time and bluegrass with Jewish elements, what they call “Jewish spirit.” This does not mean, necessarily, that they are mixing Jewish melodies or instrumental performance, though one would have to assume that some of that does find its way in. The Jewish spirit of which they speak is 1.) using the Hebrew language, sometimes alternately to English within a song as in “Esa Enai,” taken from the 121 Psalm and sometimes for a full song as in the Jewish prayer “Mi Chamoca” and 2.) using Jewish and Old Testament themes for subjects, such as in “River Song” in which the Garden of Eden, Noah, and Moses are the focus.
Does it work? Most definitely yes. The songs are often poetic, lyrically and spiritually engrossing, and always above reproach in both singing and instrumentation. Sometimes they are playful, as when they rework “Banjo Pickin’ Girl” into “Jewish Singin’ Girl.” Other times, they are intensely emotional, as in the gentle, prayer-like “Adonai Love Me” or declarative in their call for human unity, as on “Brothers And Sisters (Hine Ma Tov).”
Doni Zasloff is the principal lead singer. She generally uses a soft, smooth delivery and is particularly effective on the slower, more relaxed tunes. She can and does, however, let loose to good effect. Eric Lindberg also sings his share of the leads, but is most striking as a guitarist and banjoist. This is most noticeable on the three instrumentals, “Xander The Highlander,” “Suszno,” and “Millie’s Waltz.”
Backing the couple are Sam Bush, Scott Vestal, Rob Ickes, Mark Schatz, and fiddler Gary Oleyar. Nefesh Mountain means “straying from the norm.” This enjoyable, well-played recording does that to great effect. (www.nefeshmountain.com)BW