Every so often, we find ourselves looking for something totally different. Enter Saul Kaye and “Jewish Blues” – while the label may sound schmaltzy, the records are not. Kaye is well-studied in his genre, and his tenor voice and lithe guitar provide a mellifluous sound heretofore unknown in the Jewish music world.
Some of his songs are Bible Belt, southern classics (“Go Down Pharoah”), and others are his own whimsical creations – if you can’t take a bit of tongue in cheek, don’t go here – but his plaintive bluesy wailin’ gives the Tanach stories a whole different color (pardon the pun)!
As of yet, I’ve only acquired his Vol. 1, a live recording from a few years back and the focus of this review, but you can go to www.SaulKaye.com to hear some of his solid, and sometimes even spectacular studio work. (After checking it out myself, I’ve noticed that I’ve got some albums I gotta buy…)
The album’s best pieces bring it on with the brilliant Jeremiah’s Blues, which, like the entire album, is given its color scheme through the basic jazz quartet – piano, guitar, percussion and bass. The musicians are superlative, feeling Saul’s emotion and poring it right back. And the lyrics, again, are unique and full of character.
Of note are also his version of the ancient classic Go Down Moses, and scores once again, adding some classy scatting to his own furious guitar solo. Simon Russell’s piano pours forth its own fury, as well. Desert Blues, however is a real kicker – the slide guitar leads the piece brilliantly, and the lyrics are pretty funny.
Dust My Broom is a Southern Modeh Ani of sorts – a soulful strap your boots on, and serve Hashem properly. Sea of Reeds is another playful commentary on the Exodus, and the conversations that may have happened among the people. Or at least those people messing around with guitar and keyboard! And Blackwater Fever is another superlative track, and a non-Biblical one – a spirited recounting of Saul’s great-grandfather escaping the Russian army and fleeing to Africa.
Jewish Blues is a sound and a project by a master musician well worth checking out! Go to www.SaulKaye.com to get some listenin’ in, and bring some blues on home!
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