Archive for the ‘Barry Deutsch’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GRACIE AND RACHEL-Tiny Desk Concert #666 (November 1, 2017).

Who are Gracie and Rachel?

They are Gracie Coates the primary singer and keyboard player and Rachel Ruggles on a violin processed through various pedals.  The two Berkeley California high school friends are now New York loft-mates. Together with percussionist Richard Watts, a huge bass drum, and electronic drum pads, the group mixes classical training with pop hooks, and curiosity with uncertainty.

The complex tunes they beautifully reproduced in this thrilling Tiny Desk performance are from the group’s debut, self-titled album released back in June of this year.

All three of the songs have the same basic style and tone–rather intense–somber piano with soaring strings and Gracie’s interestingly delivered vocals.

“Only A Child” stars with a simple piano riff that has a real sense of uncertainty, almost menace.  I can’t decide what she’s doing with her vocal style but it’s certainly unique.  There’s some backing vocals although I can’t quite tell where they’re coming from (live or prerecorded) and they add a really creepy tone.    And then there’s the lyrics:  “I’m moving my mouth but I don’t say a word/My ears are open but nothing is heard/I’m only a child, only a child.”  But really the way the violin plays that descending mellow is absolutely captivating.

“Go” features the big bass drum which I didn’t even see at first.  This one has ringing piano notes and pizzicato strings.  The violin is primarily fast notes until the middle when she slows things down and it takes on a very different tone.  The middle features just a simple piano note repeated along with the women’s voices.

Before the last song she says, “I really wanted this moment to say something fun but I realized that our music isn’t very funny.”

And she’s right.  The music is sharp and inquisitive.  It’s not fun, but it’s very good.

“Don’t Know” has the pointed lyric: “And when did it become alright for you to take our rights and when did we decide to give away the life that we live today?”  There’s more sinister piano but there’s these interesting trills on the violin (and backing vocals) that float above the music.  It’s really some great and enticing music.

[READ: February 15, 2016] Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish

I really enjoyed the other two books in this series, and the tagline “Yet another 11-Year old time-travelling Orthodox Jewish babysitter” let me know I’d be in for more of the same fun.

Mirka is the 11-year-old orthodox girl.  Her mother died when she was young and her father remarried.  She has a brother and two step-sisters.  Her step mother is tough but fair (sometimes).  And they live very distinctly Orthodox life–Non Orthodox Jews are called moderns.  We learn a bit about Orthodox culture–there are lots of Jewish phrases with translations at the bottom, and little cartoon which show that unmarried women keep their hair long, while married women cut it short or shave it and wear a wig called a snood.

Right now the crisis in Mirka’s life is her six-year old step-sister Layele.  Mirka is going to babysit Layele for a couple of days.  Just as the adults leave, Fruma mentions having seen something in the woods–but stops herself before she can reveal anything.  This of course only sets Mirka’s mind in motion and she immediately defies orders and goes into the woods with Layele. (more…)

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mirkaSOUNDTRACK: MATISYAHU-“Chop ‘Em Down” (2004).

matisyaMatisyahu was something of a novelty when he appeared in 2004–a Hasid who performed dancehall reggae.  And yes, it does look very strange.  But he is quite adept at the style.  And lyrically it works really well.  Reggae is (often) a very spiritual music so Matisyahu’s own spiritualism works with the beats he lays down.  Instead of Jah, we hear about Egypt and Pharaoahs.  And the “scatting” that he does is like the scatting found in more typical reggae but it has a more Middle Eastern feel.  It’s a neat concept and well executed.

This is not a style of music that I like a lot (one song is usually enough for me), but I really like the sound he has conjured.  It’s clear that he transcends the novelty and is a genuine fan of the music.  It’s an interesting way to expand people’s horizons (on both sides).

Interestingly, in 2011, Matisyahu shaved off his beard and dropped his Orthodoxy.  He is still spiritual, but without the trappings of his faith.  Fascinating.  Here’s a before and after photo.


[READ: January 18, 2012] Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

I enjoyed the second book in this series quite a lot.  So I found the first one to read too.  Who can pass up a book subtitled: Yet another troll-fighting 11 year-old Orthodox Jewish girl.  I had said that you didn’t need the first one to enjoy the second one.  And that’s true, although I now know that the first one would have laid down a foundation for me to enjoy the second one even more.

What is neat about this story is that there isn’t a lot of exposition up front.  We learn that Mirka is an 11-year-old Orthodox Jew living with her family (which contains many siblings).  She is a little wild and not interested in being “good.”  She’s not bad at all, just spirited–she really wants to fight a dragon.  It’s not until later in the story that we learn that she has a stepmother (unless that is obvious to Orthodox readers from the way Mirka addresses her) and that there may actually be dragons in this world.

The book presents Orthodox life and its day to day realities.  It doesn’t explain or justify the details, it just shows them (with occasional translations of Yiddish terms).  Although it must be admitted that Hereville, where the family lives, is a bit unlike other communities.  Everyone who lives there is Orthodox and non-Orthodox reading materials are not permitted.  And indeed, when a pig shows up, the children don’t know what it is. (more…)

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herevilleSOUNDTRACKBRAVE COMBO/BOB DYLAN-“Must Be Santa” (1991).

bob dylanBrave Combo is a fun band that mixes more styles in one album than most bands do in their career.  While they primarily play polka, the also play everything from folk to rock to klezmer.  This song is an old song from Mitch Miller, but Brave Combo speed it up and spice it up with clarinets and fun instrumental frills.  It’s fast and furious.

And if that wasn’t strange enough, Bob Dylan covered the song–and clearly covered the Brave Combo version when he made his Christmas album in 2009.  Although Brave Combo didn’t write the song, Dylan’s cover is certainly in the polka style and he includes lyrics that Brave combo added:

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton.

Dylan singer faster than I’ve ever heard him.  It’s a hoot.  And the video is really funny too.

[READ: January 3, 2012] Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite

I saw this book on the library shelf and the tagline (“Boldy Going Where No 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl Has Gone Before”) made it sound like a lot of fun.  Upon reading it, I can see it’s not quite what thought it was.  It turned out to be much cooler.  This also proves to be the second book in this series, although you don’t need the first book to appreciate this one.

Mirka, an orthodox Jewish girl has been grounded (for fighting a troll with a sword.  Her stepmother, sick of her hanging around, offers to play Mirka in chess.  If Mirka wins, her punishment is over.  As with everything Mirka does, she is too brash, too hasty, which means that she will not win.  But her stepmother takes pity and allows her to go outside–if she stays out of trouble.  But because she is willful, Mirka runs right back to the troll.  The troll, angered at being defeated by such a stupid girl (his insults at her are great), creates a meteorite and sends it hurtling towards the town of Hereville.

Mirka consults with the witch who helped her defeat the troll in the first place and the witch changes the meteorite into a girl who is the exact copy of Mirka.  Although indeed, not an exact copy for Metty as she comes to be known is smarter, neater and better at basketball.  Mirka thinks it would be great to have this twin around to help with chores but Metty winds up eating all her food (they can’t both be in the same place at once) including the big feast at Shabbos and making her look bad.   (more…)

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