Wolf Krakowski

Transmigrations: Gilgul

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For those familiar with the work of Kinky Friedman when he was a musician, this is another, much weirder step in that direction. Wolf Krakowski and the Lonesome Brothers issued Transmigrations: Gilgul on their own label in 1996, only to have it reissued by John Zorn in the Radical Jewish Culture series. Radical is right. Here are ten songs, all country & western blues tunes (an almost totally forgotten music) played recklessly and drunkenly with great musicianship and sung almost entirely in Yiddish (an almost totally forgotten language). Tales of loss, loss, and more loss anchored with tunes of broken desire, displacement, and solemn regret crossed with an absolute resignation. "Why worry and fret when everything goes up in smoke," one song intones. Another is of ten brothers, all who ply different trades and are killed off verse by verse in a sort of "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" fashion. The lament "Warsaw" is as heartbreaking as any country song of displacement and longing, and fills the listener with a melancholy so profound and vast it is impossible to see out of until the next tune kicks in. Krakowski is a kind of East-Coast underground hero. A rabid Kerouac nut and country fan, he also filmed over 100 survivor interviews for Stephen Spielberg's Shoah Foundation. The weirdest and most delightful song on the disc is called "Yidishe Mykholim" (Jewish Food), a tribute to the holiday season. This set might not be for everybody, but it certainly is for anyone who likes interesting forms of world music or all those puffed-up proponents of alternative country music. Why? Simple: It doesn't get any more alternative than Wolf Krakowski.

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