Newlyweds Producing Jewish Appalachian music

Newlyweds Producing Jewish Appalachian music

"As I went down to the river to pray...with Miriam" - young, in love and fiddling the Torah, Appalachian-style

Montclair, New Jersey seems a world apart from Appalachia, the cradle of what’s known as “old-time” music. Yet, that’s where newlywed couple Eric Lindberg and Doni Zasloff combine old-time, bluegrass, and Americana music with their Jewish faith and tradition, as the duo Nefesh Mountain.

Right now there’s just a handful of videos in which they sing and play banjo in the woods. One medley includes the traditional spiritual “Down To The River To Pray” and “Modeh Ani” (the Jewish prayer upon waking). They also harmonize the Psalm Esa Einai and the hymn “Hine Ma Tov” over Lindberg’s plucking and strumming.

The two just recorded their debut album at the legendary Sound Emporium Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, with a fleshed-out sound that includes upright bass, dobro, fiddle and mandolin. In an email, Lindberg admits that “Jewish bluegrass” still raises eyebrows. But, he said, “it’s folk music, not unlike the folk music that came out of the 1960s or even klezmer for that matter, and that makes it a great vehicle for telling stories and connecting with people in a very immediate way.”

(Avishay Artsy is a news reporter and producer at Southern California public radio station KCRW, and a contributing writer for the Jewish Journal, where he writes about arts and culture through a Jewish lens.)

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