This intriguing duo recording, with packaging reminiscent of an early Folkways recording, comes from a young couple from Asheville, N.C. They manage to capture that label’s vibe by conveying the haunting simplicity of the music they love, playing straightforward and sincere renditions of a captivating array of traditional songs and tunes.
The principals involved are Natalya Weinstein on fiddle, guitar, and vocals and John Miller on guitar, banjo, and vocals, but they go by their middle names of Zoe & Cloyd. Zoe’s fiddling is pure and true, a sweet sound that enhances the beauty and timelessness of the six instrumental tracks, mostly originals, which they include on their debut CD. Her voice has a similar straightforward appeal, even though sometimes it seems as if her innocent delivery belies the hard lives of the characters in the old songs she sings. Cloyd’s voice, equally appealing and true, carries a bit more worldly experience in tone, and when their voices join in harmony, there’s a special magic that lifts the subtle charms of this album.
They document their sources thoroughly, ranging over an eclectic scope of material that includes a contemporary, but ageless sounding song by Joe Newberry and older gems gleaned from the recordings of Ralph Stanley (“We Shall Sleep, But Not Forever,”) Lulu Belle and Scotty (“Be Careful Girls,”) and an instrumental by Jim Shumate (“Lazy Man Blues,”) who happens to be Cloyd’s grandfather.
Two of the standout tracks are probably also a pair of the recording’s biggest outliers. “Sheyn Vi Di Levone” is an old Yiddish love song played sweetly on fiddle by Zoe, and is her tribute to the playing of her own grandfather, klezmer musician David Weinstein. And there is a live concert recording of an achingly beautiful rendition of “Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie” that adds dimensions of lonesome to this song that I’ve not ever heard before.
This is an enchanting debut CD by a young couple with immense respect and passion for traditional music, delivered with exquisite vocal and instrumental ability and the wisdom to play it simply and well. (John Cloyd Miller & Natalya Zoe Weinstein, 73 Deaver Street, Asheville, NC 28806, www.zoeandcloyd.com.)HK