“We are looking for answers,” Zoe & Cloyd insist on Rebuild, the opening track from the duo’s latest offering of the same name. A mix of new and old songs, the duo (Natalya Zoe Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller) set out to create a series of narratives that delve in explicit detail into the division that preceded the pandemic, and became exacerbated when COVID took its toll.
While messaging is commonplace in folk music, and mostly shared by artists of an overarched variety, bluegrass doesn’t generally touch on social issues or take a specific stand. And indeed, Zoe & Cloyd don’t tackle their subjects in a particularly preachy way. Instead, they share their thoughts while staying true to a grassicana template that ensures a signature sound. Rebuild makes that clear, a preamble of sorts that states an underlying theme precisely and concisely, with banjos blazing, mandolins chopping, and fiddles freely wailing. Other tracks offer more precise reflections on today’s unsettled state of affairs. Where Do You Stand delineates the polarization that tears at the very fabric of the nation, while also making it clear that it’s time to take a stand and do what is right for humanity.
So too, Rebuild provides its share of thoughtful rumination in series of more subtle set-ups as well. The tender ballad, Chestnut Mountain, recalls cherished memories of a time long since passed, a superb blend of solace and nostalgia. Hoffman’s Hora/David’s Frailach was plucked from Weinstein’s family archives, a klezmer instrumental of Eastern European heritage once performed by her grandfather.
That said, there’s plenty of soothing and satisfying music shared here as well. The quiet caress of Paper Crowns, the uptempo Gospel ramble, That Home Far Away, the inspired sourcing of Carry This Together, and an a cappella take on Jean Ritchie’s folk standard, Now Is The Cool of The Day, provide added verve and variety.
Ultimately, Rebuild is an ideal melding of music and messaging, an album that allows for soothing reassurance at a time when it’s needed the most. It’s a solid statement about the need to carry on, even when adversity and uncertainty cast their shadows on the far horizon. In that regard, Rebuild brings meaning in the midst of upheaval, and hope in place of despair. Zoe & Cloyd deserve kudos for sharing their efforts, and more importantly, for expressing their optimism as well.