Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Fresh Off Boat [JDub, 2006] A-
  • Citizen Boris [JDub, 2009] B+
  • Tanz [Corason Digital, 2014] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Fresh Off Boat [JDub, 2006]
Easy-Klezmer as Gypsy brass. Yet the only wind instrument is a trombone, and it's quieter than the violin this tradition-bending ensemble puts on clarinet duty. In Yiddish or English, of which there's just enough, it's the singers who pump up the party: Eugene Hutz fan Aaron Diskin growling as if he's given up musical comedy for Purim, the incendiary Annette Ezekiel--an Ethel Merman for our time. A-

Citizen Boris [JDub, 2009]
In antithetical ways, "Train Across Ukraine" and "Citizen Boris" are civics lessons for "travelers third class," now known as "workers seeking green cards." But mostly the klezmer band that thinks a trombone makes you Balkan brass turns to the languages of love, including both English and the rhythmic invocations of a medium-raucous Yiddish-Gypsy wedding. Maybe you don't know what "Tucheses and Nenes" are. Lenny Bruce did, though. And you'll figure it out. B+

Tanz [Corason Digital, 2014]
Produced by bassist to the weirdos Tony Maimone, this all-acoustic klezmer sextet is amped up only marginally by a guest guitarist you'll hardly notice up against Annette Kogan's accordion and Jeremy Brown's violin. The title song translates "dance," naturally, and is more frenetic than and very nearly as compelling as most of the many African-inspired calls to that activity. Equally compelling are not one, not two, but three Kogan-penned love-songs-with-a-twist: "Mikveh Bath," in which a virgin bride fantasizes about her husband-to-be as she purifies herself; "Miskayt," in which a man and woman "so ugly you could cry" discover each other's good points; and "Love You All the Time," in which a perpetually worried Kogan implores her husband not to run with scissors or go on Facebook. Inspirational Verse: "We don't believe in heaven/We just want to die happy." A-

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