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Makin Waves Album of the Month: "The Cabin Sessions" by Nefesh Mountain


By Bob Makin

originally published: 02/26/2024

Makin Waves Album of the Month: "The Cabin Sessions" by Nefesh Mountain

ARTWORK BY BENE ROHLMANN

Since their arrival on the scene in 2015, Montclair-based progressive roots-flavored Nefesh Mountain have been hailed as one of the formative boundary-pushing groups in Americana music. Husband-and-wife team Eric Lindberg and Doni Zasloff blur the lines between Americana, Judaic music, folk, bluegrass, klezmer, jazz and blues typically with a traditional-minded acoustic approach.

But with their seven-track EP "The Cabin Studios" of mostly cover songs, the band expands their beautiful sound and message of love with electric guitars and drums. Joining Doni on vocals and Eric on vocals, guitars and banjo are violinists Alan Grubner and John Mailander, mandolinist Thomas Cassell, keyboardist Philip Townes, bassist Dan Klingsberg, and drummers-percussionists David Berger and Josh Day. Produced by Eric & Doni, the celebratory collection was engineered and mixed in East Nashville by Grammy-winner Brandon Bell, whose extensive resume includes work with Alan Jackson, Sarah Jarosz, Joni Mitchell, Zac Brown Band, Foo Fighters, Brandi Carlile, Earl Scruggs, Reba McEntire, Alison Russell, Alison Krauss and Union Station and many others.

Throughout, Nefesh Mountain continue to address antisemitism, inequality, racism, and injustices, but mostly “The Cabin Sessions” is about love from the opening cover of The Allman Brothers Band’s rarely revived “Revival” to the closing mashup of Tim O’Brien’s “More Love” and Victor Wooten’s “More Luv.”

Eric was inspired to record “Revival” while listening to the “Idlewild South” album during an oceanside drive in San Diego. The cover is an expression of his and Doni’s lifelong obsession with Southern music, as well as gratitude in the wake of enduring COVID and the birth of Willow, their first child together.

The magical tones of music heal, especially hate, and can offer love, an increasingly radical concept in the face of the animosity that divides the world. Their harmonic take on “Revival” sends a powerful message that also expresses the band’s mission to spread love, especially the verse “We’re in a revolution / Don’t you know we’re right / When everyone is singing / There’ll be no one left to fight.”



 
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A pretty meditative take on Wilco’s “What Light” is followed by a rollicking duet on Mark Knopfler’s “Red Staggerwing,” which he recorded with Emmylou Harris, but in Nefesh Mountain’s caring hands, the vocals also are reminiscent of the rock ‘n’ roll common ground of June Carter & Johnny Cash.

“Nefesh Mountain” actually cover themselves with a new version of “The Narrow Bridge,” originally released on their 2018 sophomore album, “Beneath the Open Sky.” That time out Doni sang lead. This time Eric does, and he plays electric guitar.

The song is based on rabbinic teaching that the whole world is a “narrow bridge,” the width of which can be a struggle that can pit even family members against each other, yet the bridge can help us face and alleviate the fear and anger that can lead to hate. Both versions express this concept beautifully, but the new take is even more emotionally dynamic because of the band’s expanded sound.

A haunting, rootsy take on John Coltrane’s “After the Rain” leads to the album’s lone new original: “Southlands,” a roots-rock instrumental very much inspired by the Allmans. The celebration of Nefesh Mountain’s expanded sound features dual electric guitar leads, a tasty organ solo, and a cacophony of drums. Yet, there’s also the kind of mandolin and fiddle virtuosity fans have come to know and love.

One of the album’s three singles, the closing “More Love” is in response to the Israel-Hamas War. The first half of the track features Nefesh Mountain’s version of “More Love” by progressive bluegrass great Tim O’Brien of Hot Rize fame. This segues nicely into master bassist Victor Wooten’s “More Luv.” Together, they express the world’s need to better address hate.

You’ll be able to feel the love live when Nefesh Mountain play a hometown gig April 20 at Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair sandwiching dates in Hong Kong and Merlefest, one of the premier music festivals in the country and an annual homecoming of musicians and music fans held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, N.C.

The love of Nefesh Mountain also is being expressed in "We Sing Nonetheless,” a forthcoming documentary about the band from the Emmy-winning Upstander Project.  For about that project, click here.



 
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For more about Nefesh Mountain, click https://www.nefeshmountain.com.

Bob Makin has produced Makin Waves since 1988. Follow Makin Waves on Facebook and contact Bob at makinwaves64@yahoo.com.


 

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