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Review: Fraidy Katz - The Eternal Question


Album Cover - The Eternal Question
The Eternal Question
 Artist: Fraidy Katz
 Album: The Eternal Question - Di Alte Kashe
 Date of Release: 2006
 Label: Kame'a Media
 Cat. No.: KAM7003
 Country of Release: US
 Genre/s: World | Jewish | Trad.

 Sub-Genre/s: Yiddish
 Type: Studio
   Time: 58:44
   Date of Review: 2010/01/24
   Web Site: Kame'a Media
   Sample Track
    Watch Video: Vilne

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The Eternal Question - Di Alte Kashe

Released in 2006 on Kame'a, Fraidy Katz's The Eternal Question - Di Alte Kashe comes some eight years after her last superb album with Klezical Tradition, Family Portrait. The present album represents something of a departure for Katz over the latter. Gone, apart from the bonus track, Vilne, is the strictly traditional style of interpretation, and instead the traditional and popular Yiddish material is given a more contemporary treatment with idioms ranging from bluesy to jazz-swing and even reggae, much in the vein of the great Wolf Krakowski who co-produced here (as well as singing duet with Katz on one track, Gedenk).

Was it worth the long wait for a new Fraidy Katz album? And does the change of style work? The answer to the former has to be an unequivocal yes. The second question is perhaps not so easily answered. The difficulty, however, lies more with the listener than the performer. You have to first overcome any preconceptions you may have about Fraidy Katz and Yiddish song. However, given that this style is so much Wolf Krakowski's very own, this is perhaps not always easy. Get rid of that baggage though and open your mind, and this album quickly grows on you.

Here and there one definitely misses, nay almost expects, the rich, gritty, wonderfully gravelly "voice of experience" of Krakowski rather than the normally soft, mellifluous one of Katz. This is especially the case with the opening track, Mit Gelt Tor Men Nisht Shtoltsirn. But generally, this album works and is an absolute treat. Particularly well work the reggae-styled A Shtekele and the jazzy-bluesy duet with Krakowski, Gedenk.

Here, in connection with the former A Shtekele, I must digress for a moment and take issue with the otherwise most excellent and learned and widely respected Seth Rogovoy's comments on the PR material for the album, who, I am sure, meant no offense. However, including, as he does, reggae among "quintessentially American styles" is really quite unacceptable and inexcusable, as well as quite upsetting if not offensive to most West Indians and particularly Jamaicans. Reggae is a quintessentially Jamaican style, having evolved out of Rocksteady and Ska. And last time I checked, Jamaica was still in the West Indies, or Caribbean. As somebody who has lived (elsewhere) in the Caribbean and with Caribbean family connections, I can assure you that the peoples of this region are thoroughly fed up of being considered as living in "Uncle Sam's backyard" or as American in any sort of way. Even geographically, most of the Caribbean is situated on its own continental plate. While American influences are sadly undeniable and sadly growing all the time, the cultures (plural, please note!) of the Caribbean are still distinctly their own. So, please, let us acknowledge reggae as as quintessentially Jamaican (not even Caribbean or West Indian) as it is and not further rob the peoples of this region of their identity and their achievements. Thank you.

But back to Fraidy Katz's The Eternal Question. The material itself is an absolute delight, with one or two of the songs new to me. Thanks to Katz's excellent diction, the lyrics are easy enough to follow, even with my (still, alas) fairly rudimentary understanding of Yiddish. The excellent sleeve notes include the lyrics in Yiddish, romanised or transliterated Yiddish, as well as English translation, albeit in a font size that requires me to use a good magnifier, having less than 20/20 vision.

Overall, in spite of previous comments, The Eternal Question is a delightfully consistent album. Fraidy Katz has delivered a heartfelt delight. And rather than stick with the safe option, she has had the immense courage to try a new approach. Works for me. Definitely a new Yiddish favourite here. Of course, Vilne, the bonus track, a more traditional rendition recorded in 1992, really is a bonus.

Surely Fraidy Katz's The Eternal Question - Di Alte Kashe ought to be in any good Yiddish song collection.

© 2010 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

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Track List:

 1. Mit Gelt Tor Men Nisht Shtoltsirn - Do Not Take Pride In Money - 5:42
 2. Nakht Un Regn - Night And Rain - 3:17
 3. Hungerik Dayn Ketsele - Your Kitten Is Hungry - 3:39
 4. Dos Pintele Fun Kheyn - That Little Bit Of Charm - 4:28
 5. Vintsht Mir A Bisele Glik - Wish Me A Little Luck - 3:52
 6. A Shtekele - A Small Stick - 6:24
 7. Shterndl, Shterndl - Little Star, Little Star - 4:45
 8. Gedenk - Remember - 3:29
 9. Du Zolst Nisht Geyn Mit Keyn Andere Meydelekh - Don't Go With Other Girls - 4:25
10. Moyde Ani - I Am Thankful - 3:43
11. Ovntlid - Evening Song - 5:17
12. Di Alte Kashe - The Eternal Question - 5:44
13. Bonus Track (Recorded 1992): Vilne - Vilna - 4:11

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Fraidy Katz - vocals

The Lonesome Brothers:
   Jim Armenti - acoustic and electric guitars, lap steel guitar, keyboard
   Ray Mason - bass guitar
   Tom Shea - drums
Seth Austen - mandolin
Brian Bender - trombone, trumpet
Freddie Chapelliquen - Antaras (Andean pipes)
Joshua Horowitz - accordion
David Isabelle - alto and tenor saxophones, claves
Faith Kaufmann - finger cymbals
Wolf Krakowski - duet vocals on Gedenk
Jim Matus - laouto
Daniel Lombardo - percussion
Cookie Segelstein - violin
Beverly Woods - hurdy-gurdy, tsimbl
The Ketselekh:
   Debbie Saperstone - vocals, duet on Shterndl, Shterndl
   Jaye Simms - vocals
   Pamela Smith-Selavka - vocals

Bonus track featuring:
Jim Armenti - bouzouki
Amy Rose - piano
Joe Blumenthal - acoustic guitar, bass balalaika
Susan Schiffman - violin

Produced by Wolf Krakowski and Jim Armenti


Purchasing Info:

can be purchased:
From Kame'a Media

Online from

From Hatikvah Music International (US)

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