Mark Rubin's Hill Country Hannukah is a sampling of traditional Jewish music performed by Jewish musicians of Central Texas. Yes, you're supposed to do a double-take upon hearing that. Kinky Friedman this is not. You may well have another shock when you hear the authenticity and energy of the diverse tunes (Eastern European, Sephardic, and more) presented. From an unlikely source, this collection of songs is irrefutable proof that Jewish holiday music is far better and more varied than that stupid "Dreidl" song that politically correct curriculums made you sing back in elementary school.
"Holding it all together... is the unfailingly exuberant and expert playing of Rubin's band."
Rubin is best known as the tuba and bass-player for legendary acoustic-punk-meets-bluegrass duo the Bad Livers, but for the past six years he's also been playing Klezmer, Kharzones, and other traditional Jewish music with his Rubinchik's Orkestyr (here billed as Rubinchik's Yiddische Ensemble). Hill Country Hannukah was recorded entirely live at the studios of radio-station KUT and finds the Ensemble in a loose jam through 13 songs, playing alone and with cantor Khazan Neil Blumofe, Congregation Agudas Achim choir, folk singer Robbie Sherwin, and sephardic singer Galeet Dardashti.
From the opening dirge of "Doina" to cantor Blumofe's alternately jazzy and chanting spiritual lead, to the sing-along joy and almost Joan Baez-like folkiness of Dardashti's "Shalom Alenu" and "Halelu," Hill Country Hannukah runs through a variety of styles. Holding it all together, though, is the unfailingly exuberant and expert playing of Rubin's band. Clarinet, accordion, and Rubin's own bass and oud, provide the traditional foundation and exotic old-world flavor of these excellent songs.- by robert whiteman
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