Daniel Kahn and The Painted Bird / The Butcher's Share
We face perilous times. There is one man who can be counted on to write the Yiddish (and English!) songs we need to energize us in our struggle. Happily, Dan Kahn has stepped into the breach, gathered up his excellent band of musicians, including some extraordinary friends, and undertaken his responsibilities.
This latest release features no major thematic or music departures. The world is still a perilous place where the forces of money and reaction are doing their best to extract what is left from the 99% of those of us left behind. Given that context, starting the album off with "the Butcher's Sher" is an unsettling reminder of the stakes (and alludes to the amazing, wonderful music The Painted Bird uses to keep us dancing as we march). A lot of old songs are made new again: Kahn takes the patriarchal "Arbeter Froyen" and turns it into an actual women's anthem.
There is also a counter to those of us have been enervated by the return to the struggles we thought were resolved a generation ago—a reminder, that "Freedom is a verb"—it is an ongoing struggle—"something never finished, never done". There is also an excellent version of the WWII partisan anthem "Shtil di nahkt iz oysgeshternt" (Silent Stars), with an excellent English translation by Kahn, paired with a new anthem for the Occupy movement, written by Josh Waletzky, "99%—Nayn-un-nayntsik". We finally have Dan's excellent version of the late Adrienne Cooper's "How the Jews got to Europe" (one of several reminders here of the late singer, teacher, organizer).
The recording closes with "No one survives," a song (along with "Sheyres hora" and "Children in the woods") written for a production of IB Singer's "Enemies: a love story." In my mind it echoes Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," but is perhaps just a reminder of what Kahn calls "the general doom of late;" and two songs focusing attention, and a plea for peace, again, on the fraternal conflict in the Middle East.
So, as I began. Nothing new. The struggle continues. Songs of defiance directed against the bosses of old, and songs from/commemorating the Holocaust that destroyed the world of our grandparents are all new again. Freedom is a verb. And good, thoughtful music makes the struggle easier. Once again, thank you, Mr. Kahn.
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 6 July 2018.
Personnel this recording:
Daniel Kahn: vocals, accordions, acoustic & electric guitars, piano, tenor banjo, bird whistle, harmonica
Dan Blacksberg: trombone
Hampus Melin: drums, percussion, pan, back vocals
Jake Shulman-Ment: violin, back vocals (9)
Michael Tuttle: upright & electric basses, back vocals
Michael Alpert: vocals (1, 3)
Patrick Farrell: vocals (4)
Sarah Gordon: vocals (4)
Psoy Korolenko: vocals (3, 9)
Sveta Kundish: vocals (4)
Sasha Lurje: vocals (4, 8, 9, 13)
Lorin Sklamberg: vocals (3, 4, 9)
Ilya Shneyveys: vocals (3)
- Shimke Khazer (trad.) 0:28
- The Butcher's Sher (text: Kahn; music: Kahn/trad.) 4:59
- Freedom is a Verb (Kahn) 3:21
- Arbeter froyen—Working women (yiddish, music: Dovid Edelshtat; Eng: Kahn) 3:22
- Sheyres Hora (music: trad. Romanian; text: Kahn) 2:00
- The ballad of how the Jews got to Europe (English: Adrienne Cooper; Yiddish: Michael Wex; music: Frank London) 3:10
- Children in the woods (Kahn) 2:02
- Shtil di nakht iz oysgeshternt—Silent stars (music, yiddish: Hirsh Glick; Eng: Kahn) 4:01
- 99%—Nayn-un-nayntsik (Josh Waltezky; Eng: Kahn) 5:30
- Tzivkever nign (Kahn) 2:58
- No one survives (Kahn) 3:00
- Two brothers (text: Joshua Davis & Ann DelMariani; music: Joshua Davis; arr. Kahn) 5:36
- Avrom Ovinu sharft dos meser—Abraham the Patriarch sharpens the knife (Yiddish: Itzik Manger; music Daniel Kahn) 3:25