Woody Guthrie’s Happy Joyous Hanukkah

The Klezmatics

This second interpretation of Woody Guthrie’s Jewish-themed lyrics by the Klezmatics-America’s premiere Yiddish band-revolves around Hanukkah, and by the title, it’s not surprising that most of the offerings boast a lively tone. Guthrie, the Dust Bowl balladeer, lived in post-war Brooklyn (Coney Island, to be exact), and, inspired by his mother-in-law, the Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt, wrote a newly found series of poems that focused on Jewish culture. Primarily set to music by the Klezmatics’ Lorin Sklamberg and Frank London, the holiday lyrics come alive to prayerful Hasidic nigunim and playful klezmer freylekhs, as well as to Nashville-tinged country fare. The band also conjured several instrumentals to flesh out Guthrie’s slight Hanukkah catalogue, though the funk-’n’-jazz “(Do the) Latke Flip-Flip” seems a mistake. Sequenced near Guthrie’s “The Many and the Few,” a somber persecution-and-renewal story song about King Cyrus’s release of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity, it seems as out of place as Christmas in October. But this innovative collaboration still has the makings of a holiday classic, as appealing to children as to the parents who spawned them.

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