Rise Up! Shteyt Oyf!
One thing about the Klezmatics, they’re not afraid of a little controversy with their klezmer music. Here they stir the ashes a couple of times, with an English-Yiddish cover of Holly Near’s “I Ain’t Afraid” that comes twice on the disc, and points out the pitfalls of what people do in the name of religion, and also in “Loshn-Koydesh,” an unusual tale of a Hebrew lesson with an appropriately seductive melody to match the words. This time around the emphasis is most definitely on songs, rather than instrumentals, and for the most part they keep their fire quite restrained, rarely letting the instrumental work fly into the stratosphere as they have in the past. Where they do, on “Katz Un Moyz,” for example, the results are spectacular, a reminder of how good players like Steven Greenman and Matt Darriau truly are. But Lorin Sklamberg has rarely sounded better singing with the band, as he proves on “Makht Oyf.” They might be more serious and focused this time around, abandoning the free joy of the past, but they’re still damn good. (Chris Nickson, AMG)