Those of us who appreciate Appalachian-inspired roots music probably already understand how the dance tunes of the region developed. Through the melding of the folk traditions from the various peoples who settled there during the 18th and 19th centuries, a distinct style developed. Though largely Scots/Irish, already adapted to the sort of hardscrabble existence required for mountain living, there were also settlers from other European cultures contributing, plus freed and escaped west African slaves, in the mix.
Contemporary scholarship is bringing out more and more information about these mountain folks and the lives they led, and how their different cultures added to the formation of the music we now know as old time and bluegrass. And we see more modern artists exploring those sounds in their recordings.
We have an example today in the new single from Zoe & Cloyd, one from the klezmer tradition of eastern Europe and the Jewish people who have lived there for centuries. It’s the heritage of fiddler Natalya Zoe Weinstein, whose grandfather was a professional entertainer back in Ukraine, and in the US after emigrating in 1923. Their new track combines a pair of dance numbers in familiar styles – at least to the Ukrainian Jews – a hora, and a frailach.
The track is Hoffman’s Hora/David’s Frailach, which Natalya says work perfectly in a string band.
“I think that bluegrass and klezmer blend together well because of their folk history and sensibilities. It’s a beautiful fusion!”
Opening with just the violin accompanied by John Cloyd Miller on guitar, the tune is joined by Kevin Kehrberg on bass and Bennett Sullivan on banjo, delivering a rousing treatment with a joyous sound.
Here’s a taste.
Weinstein shared a bit more about the sources of the tunes.
“Horas and frailachs were dance tunes, and often were unnamed. This version of Hoffman’s Hora was named for an early recording of Jacob Hoffman and Kandel’s Orchestra. I couldn’t find another version of the frailach, except my grandfather’s handwritten one, so we named it David’s Frailach.”