Janice Rubin & Friends /
Feels like Family

Album cover: Janice and Grandmother in the kitchen.

Janice Rubin & Friends
Feels like Family
Heymish Music, 1995
5059 Yarwell, Houston, TX 77096
E-mail Janice Rubin

How do you best record music that is best heard sung by folks sitting around singing with each other? The translation of various folk musics to performance music is an ongoing problem. In common with many other folk traditions, one way to put Jewish folk sounds on record has been to swamp the music with mushy arrangements, fresh with shmaltz (chicken fat) and a perfect voice.

Well, having a beautiful voice is, actually, quite alright. But that is one of the few points this album shares in common with other Yiddish recordings of recent years (and worse, going back to the Fifties). Although, even here there is a tendency to throw in the extra, sweet flute where voice, or voice and guitar would be enough, Rubin's voice is generally able to transcend the occasional cloying arrangement, and although there occasional Texas-isms in her song, this is a generally comfortable, likeable recording where such are rare. Nor need all songs be bare bones. The deep male voices answering the chorus on "Kum aher, du filosof" are delightful, adding a cantorial somberness to a fun, satiric piece.

I also have to thank the singer for a most enjoyable repertoire. With songs ranging from "Di Grine Kuzine" to the necessary "Rozhinkes mit mandlen" (somehow avoiding the maudlin) and what a friend of mine now calls, a tribute to forced resettlement under Stalin, "Zhankoye" (whose words celebrate Jews who work the land at Zhankhoye, a Jewish village set up by Stalin in the Crimea; here the song is a bit too fast and sweet). Comparing Rubin's version of "Hob Ikh a Por Oksn" with that of Tenney/Schreck one is hard put to choose between delightful versions. The layout and liner notes, although typographically imperfect, are well-thought-out and provide nice touches of recognition as one leafs through.

Along with Miriam Dvorin's apparently unavailable, "Grandma Soup", and the Tenney/Schreck "Lomir Zingen a Yiddish Lid" this is a rare, enjoyable Yiddish folksong album worth hearing.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow 5/26/96


  1. Di Grine Kuzine (The Greenhorn Cousin) / (Prizant) 2:27
  2. Tokhter Mayne Getraye (My Dear Daughter) / (trad.) 3:20
  3. Gendzelekh (Little Geese) / (trad.) 1:48
  4. Skrip, Klezmerl, Skripe (Play, Little Musicians, Play) / (Secunda) 3:06
  5. Eynzam (Lonely) / (Itsik Manger) 3:12
  6. Klingen Gleker (Bells are Ringing) / (Gladstein/Broderzon) 2:07
  7. Kum Aher Du Filozof (Come Here You Philosopher) / (Velvl Zbarzher) 3:43
  8. Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen (Raisins and Almonds) / (Goldfaden) 4:31
  9. Di Verbe (The Willow Tree) / (Chaim Nachman Bialik) 3:10
  10. Lomir Zikh Iberbetn (Let's Make Up) / (trad.) 3:13
  11. Zhankoye / (trad.) 2:10
  12. Hob Ikh a Por Oksn (I have a pair of oxen) / (trad.) 3:35
  13. Hulyet Kinderlekh (Live it up, children) / (trad.) 3:08
  14. Tumba / (Beregovski/Feffer) 3:05
  15. Tsvey Taybelekh (Two Doves) / (trad.) 3:10
  16. Zol Shoyn Kumen Di Geule (Our Salvation Will Come) / (Kaczerginski) 4:47

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