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Published: 2001/11/21
by Jeff Perlman

The Well – Cheava Alberstein and the Klezmatics

Rounder Records 11661-3185-2
The Klezmatics are a hip bunch of frequently stoned thirtysomethings who
play klezmer – Jewish secular music with roots in Eastern Europe (and it’s a
helluvalot cooler than that Havah Nagila crap you hear at every Bar
Mitzvah). Chava Alberstein is a renowned Israeli folk diva. They have
joined creative forces to produce "The Well"; an album of Yiddish poems from
the first half of the century set to music by these talented artists.
The result is a sparkling, passionate recording which can be appreciated by
anyone: no knowledge of Yiddish necessary. While the music is newly
composed, it is in the style of Yiddish music of old, using traditional
rhythms, modes and instruments such as the clarinet, accordion, and tsimbl
(hammered dulcimer). It is outwardly simple yet subtly complex: music of
the people.

Like the poetry itself, the music runs a full range of emotions, but always
with overtones of both sadness and hope. (After all, it is the product of a
people who were oppressed for centuries.) The lyrics deal with love, loss,
escape, old age, faith, desire, and, of course, wine. From the haunting
Umetik (Lonesome) to the fun-loving song which states "a girl
should have a pair of boys: one to go and fight the foe, one to stay and
give away his life to her", the music is always alive and unpretentious,
pulling the listener in.

Alberstein’s voice ranges from tender smoothness, to faint dreaminess, to
raspy conviction. When Klezmatics vocalist Lorin Sklamberg sings, it is
with the voice of an angel. The rest of the band is right there along with
the singers, driving the music, creating lush textures, and adding cries,
moans, and laughter with their instruments when appropriate.
If what you’re looking for is some good, fast Jewish party music to inspire
wild circle dancing, try earlier Klezmatics albums like Rhythm and
Jews or Jews With Horns. But, if you are looking for passionate
music that will wash over you and touch your soul, let your ears drink from
"The Well".

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