Mark Rubin, co-founder of the Austin, TX based Bad Livers and known by audiences as the Jew of Oklahoma, is recognized for his fusion of various styles of music. This is certainly the case with his third solo effort, The Triumph of Assimilation, a recording in which the material centers around Rubin’s Jewish heritage.
Not only does The Triumph of Assimilation vary on terms of styles and arrangement, but also instrumentation. The album’s opening track, A Day of Revenge pairs Mark with members of the Panorama Jazz Band while My Resting Place reunites him with Bad Livers bandmate, Danny Barnes on banjo. Most of the full band tracks feature Rubin playing various instruments such as guitar, banjo, bass, mandolin, tuba, and percussion.
The songs where Mark truly shines are the solo pieces with just him and his guitar like Murder of Leo Frank and Good Shabbes, or with his tasteful clawhammer style banjo such as the instrumental track titled Yiddish Banjo Tunes and Avinu Malkeinu. While the songs with the full ensemble are appealing, these solo performances give just enough space to capture the gritty and ragged quality of Rubin’s vocal stylings.
Mark Rubin is someone who could most appropriately be described as a melodic storyteller. This particularly can be found with the recording’s first two tracks, A Day of Revenge and It’s Burning. As Rubin explains in the album’s liner notes, these songs are his translations of two poems by the Polish poet, Mordechai Gebirtig. My Resting Place is also based on poetry by Morris Rosenfeld. Rubin’s translations of these poetic pieces are captured perfectly within the lyrics and melodies of these songs.
The Triumph of Assimilation is a recording that not only allows listeners a deep look into Mark Rubin’s Jewish roots, but also provides a great deal of diversity and originality. It’s an album that can definitely be enjoyed by those with a wide musical palette.