Carl Nelkin - Irish Heart - Jewish Soul
Carl Nelkin's highly accomplished debut album, Irish Heart - Jewish Soul : Favourite Irish and Jewish Songs, was released in 2003 (his latest 2009 release The Little Trees Are Weeping is also reviewed on this site). A part-time chazan (cantor) from the small Irish Jewish community, Carl Nelkin here presents a selection of some favourite Irish songs and Yiddish songs mainly from the Yiddish Theatre, representing his dual heritage.
We have already encountered the Irish Jewish community on this site once before in the form of the soundtrack album by CeiliZemer of the documentary film Shalom Ireland. Here we have the "view from the inside", as it were, in the form of Carl Nelkin's Irish Heart - Jewish Soul. If you've never heard the glorious Uileann pipes on a Yiddish song before, here's your chance. For throughout both Irish and Yiddish songs, the instrumentation remains firmly Irish, with such stalwarts as the aforementioned Uileann pipes, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, and whistles. Conversely, there is also a distinctly, uniquely Yiddish flavour to the Irish songs. It's not easy to put your finger on what exactly accounts for the latter, though Carl Nelkin's somewhat cantorial style of singing must surely be a part of this.
Carl Nelkin is blessed with an outstanding beautiful voice. He combines this with great sensitivity for his material, and indeed is as at home in one tradition as in the other. The result is an album of utter delight and sheer, unadulterated listening pleasure. Irish Heart - Jewish Soul 'hits the spot' exactly and manages to take you straight to the heart and soul of both traditions. If you were not aware of this before, Carl Nelkin's Irish Heart - Jewish Soul amply demonstrates how much both have in common.
While there is no weak track in sight and it really is impossible to pick any favourites on Carl Nelkin's Irish Heart - Jewish Soul, you almost certainly have never heard Eishes Chayil (A Woman of Valour) and Danny Boy, to pick just two examples, quite like this before. The songs generally alternate between Yiddish and Irish songs, which works admirably well.
The liner provides English translations of the Yiddish lyrics, the lyrics of the Irish songs, and annotations throughout. There is also a brief outline of the history of the Yiddish theatre. Of course, there is also a brief but enlightening note on the Irish Jewish community, so little known outside Eire (the gaelic name for Ireland).
The old Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem recording of the song Mr. Moses Ray-Too-Ra-Lay-Ay about the misadventure of a Jewish trader, his sign in Hebrew script being mistaken for Finnean script (when this was still banned) by a hapless policeman, and about Dublin's first Jewish Lord Mayor, Lord Briscoe, at once touching and hilarious though it is, did little to raise awareness of the Irish Jewish community, let alone its rich cultural heritage. Carl Nelkin hopes to arouse further interest in this with Irish Heart - Jewish Soul, and in this he is almost bound to succeed with anybody who comes across this wonderful album.
Carl Nelkin's Irish Heart - Jewish Soul is a delight, the music uplifting and beautiful. It is destined to be an often-played favourite here. Irish Heart - Jewish Soul : Favourite Irish and Jewish Songs ought to be essential in any collection of either Yiddish or Irish song. It is unique in genuinely belonging to both traditions, and as such is a rare gem to be treasured by all.
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