“Thoughtless Sounds,” Max Jared’s debut Shemspeed release and the first on Shemspeed’s new folk imprint, Soul Snack Records, follows the blueprint for sentimental adult contemporary rock laid out by Jason Mraz and Jack Johnson: light accessible vocals, sensitive acoustic strumming and unobtrusive tunes. Like those other artists, Jared’s lyrical pallet assumes a sacred hippie slacker pace, empathetic about others but still so sleepy. “It’s cold outside but I’m warm in my bed / others are hopefully living okay,” he sings on “Roots,” a track emblematic of disengaged concern. Maybe look outside and find out? Later on the song he muses that “Our generation will soon be the world / So what kind of change comes with it?”
Michael Goldwasser, the son of a Reform rabbi, leads the Easy Star All-Stars. He talks about ties between Jews and Rastafarians and why Israel is the next big reggae scene.
Jewish Images in the Comics: A Visual History
By Fredrik Strömberg
Fantagraphics, 304 pages, $26.99
Though she has been involved in the Ladino music scene since Neil Armstrong strode the moon, Ljuba Davis’s new release, “East and West,” is her debut album. The 43 years Davis has spent kicking these songs around orally before committing them to permanence rings throughout the album. “East and West,” unlike comparable recent ladino records (like Sarah Aroeste’s “Gracia”), eschews contemporary sounds in favor of what seems, at first blush, like canonical melodies.
Any artist working in “World Music” (likely the vaguest genre for which Billboard tracks sales) has to determine the role traditional sounds play in their compositions. They hang suspended between the present and the past; too much fealty to the canon and the recordings become academic exercises in evoking a world long gone. Update your sound too much and you risk severing your connection to the folk vernacular entirely. After all, all music comes from somewhere in the world but no one calls Lady Gaga “World Music.”
Ben Z. Mund Photography
Tzadik Records’ Radical Jewish Culture releases often split the difference between jazz and klezmer. Both genres drag long canonical histories behind them like the train on a wedding dress. Both are easily innovated upon, prone to flights of improvisation, and adept at locating individual musicians in the midst of a vast history. Joel Rubin and Uri Caine on “Azoy Tsu Tsveyt” rarely stray far from the most essential trappings of their respective genres.
On July 23, London police were called to Amy Winehouse’s Camden apartment where they found the bluesy singer-songwriter dead. In addition to the sadness of losing such a talented musician early in her career, there’s a more prosaic tragedy as well. Talking to a Perth newspaper in 2007, the troubled Winehouse said that she dreamed of being a Jewish mother. “In 10 years’ time I’m gonna be looking after my husband and our seven kids. I’d really like to get everyone in one place and sit down and eat a meal together. I would like to uphold certain things, but not the religious side of things, just the nice family things to do. At the end of the day, I’m a Jewish girl.”