Often described as a “Jewgrass” band due to the commitment and connection to their religion and upbringing, Nefesh Mountain’s Eric Lindberg and Doni Zasloff manage to dismiss any disparities between ethnicity and the essence of abject grassicana. So too, as their exceptional new album, Songs For the Sparrows, demonstrates so demonstratively, that delineation isn’t really necessary regardless. Theirs is a sound that’s infectious, exuberant, and infused with pure melodic prowess.
Likewise, it’s a testament to their talent that an exceptional group of musicians plays a role in the proceedings — among them, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Bryan Sutton, John Doyle, and Mike McGoldrick — while creating a musical mesh that literally sweeps these songs along while providing for a series of seemingly breathtaking encounters. That’s especially evident on the extended instrumental, Suite for a Golden Butterfly, a medley comprised of interlocked interludes that segue from a solemn starting point into some Celtic crosshairs, only to end up immersed in the midst of fully rousing revelry. Likewise, In the Here and Now, a lengthy melodic excursion that finds Douglas and Bush playing prominently at the fore, crests and climbs, making for a mesmerizing melodic sojourn all along the way.
The album kicks off with Wanderlust, a tenacious tangle of banjos and harmonies which provides an ideal set-up for the music that follows. (“Again, it’s you and me, as we sail away, to another place on another day.”) Indeed, it’s an auspicious intro, given the fact that the album unfolds as an ever-evolving journey, one that ebbs and flows from effusive instrumentals to songs with a distinctive folk-like finesse, a sound that’s both charming and challenging all along the way. While there are several sweet ballads — Somewhere on This Mountain, Where Oh Where, Tree of Life, and In the Here and Now among them — the duo still manage to maintain momentum throughout, as evidenced by the rapid-fire intensity of Big Mountain and the resilient refrain of I’ve Endured.
Indeed, it’s a stunning set overall, evidence of the fact that three albums on, Nefresh Mountain have clearly reached a new peak. It’s hardly surprise then that Songs for the Sparrows literally seems to soar.