On her 54th recording (and only her third issued in the United Sates), Israeli chanteuse Chava Alberstein moves into some new terrain. Celebrated for her classics Foreign Letters and Well, a collaboration with the Klezmatics, Alberstein and her poet/lyricist husband, Navad Levitan, have crafted a wondrously melancholy series of songs and tone poems about modern life in Israel from a variety of viewpoints and capturing a startling array of situations. Musically, Ms. Alberstein is somewhere between the great folk music traditions of her homeland, modern day pop, the folk-rock heritage she literally created in Israel using Yiddish, primarily, and the depth of soul of Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. As a singer, Ms. Alberstein is dramatic and taut, though far from cinematic. She prefers to allow the lyrics of a song to permeate her delivery as she works in concert with her accompaniment; she never places herself above it or tries to communicate with vocal pyrotechnics. The most notable tracks here are the title track, with its sad imagery of people departing the beaches after Rosh Hoshanah and the hookers looking on at the departing throng. Musically, the languid, slow dirge-like tempo buoys the deep ache in the singer's voice. There is also the gorgeous and wrenching immigrant's song, "Vera From Bucharest," set to a folk melody, the acoustic guitar darkness of "'Shadow," whose poetry is as stark as the darkness and is punctuated by a lone electric guitar piercing the space with fills around her mournful voice. Ultimately though, using a variety of styles and settings, Ms. Alberstein offers a view of Tel Aviv and its everyday life that is never seen by outsiders: it is a city of ghosts and grinning shadows to be sure, but also of flesh and blood that aches, weeps, and goes about the business of making sense of the changing nature of the times. This is a brilliant, provocative recording that fans of alternative pop will flip for.
End of the Holiday Review
by Thom Jurek