Review: Yiddish Songs For The Soul
At the heart of much of Jewish Music lives a Yiddish soul, and Hy Wolfe has tapped into this legacy with “Lider Far Der Neshome”, Yiddish Songs For The Soul. Wolfe gives us a cross-section of Yiddish music that follows the Jewish migration from Eastern Europe to North America. Wolfe’s years of experience in Yiddish Theater are on display here with a wonderful voice that delivers a rich and enjoyable performance on every track.
Jewish culture is full of both great joy and deep heartache. The music must be able to convey these themes to the listener in such a way that they are enjoyable to listen to, and Wolfe succeeds from one end of this spectrum to the other.
A song of the hardship of rural life in Russia, In Vinter Farnakhtyn Oyf Rusishe Felder, is translated:
The winter sun sets in the Russian fields:
Where could it be more desolate, where could I be more alone?
The theme of life in Russia is continues with “A Zelner Bay Froyem-Yosl,” a song about the conern an observant family has about their son maintaining an observant lifestyle while serving in the Russian Army (he doesn’t).
Love songs abound in Yiddish music as well, and I like “Khavivele,” a song of longing for a girl from the Negev.
Songs of happiness can also be found, and in “Khasisimlekh,” we hear about the joy of the Chasidim as they dance, sing, and raise their glasses. They have no worries as they rejoice with the Rebbe.
Yiddish culture found its way finally to North America, and onto Yiddish Theater and Cabaret stages. These songs mix Yiddish with English, and are very clever.
“I’m A Litvak And She’s A Galitz” is a song about a happily married couple who love each other very much, except that they speak different Yiddish dialects and can’t get along.
“Umglik Blues” is a jazzy blues with a typical theme of many southern Blues songs: the distraught husband from The Bronx whose wife left him to run off to Atlantic City with Lapidus, the delicatessen owner. Still, he offers to take her to Miami Beach if she’ll come back to him. Now, who could refuse such an offer?
Jewish life in the American South is the theme of “Number Four Humentash Lane,” a Gershwin-style theater song, in which Wolfe tells us what he is looking forward to when he gets back to his home in the Deep South.
The album includes a 24-page booklet with complete Yiddish lyrics and English translations, and photos of Wolfe from his performances. The arrangements by Herbert Kaplan, even though MIDI-based, are very well done, and never overshadow Wolfe’s vocal sensitivity and depth.
“Yiddish Songs For The Soul” is dedicated to Wolfe’s parents, who came from Poland. It is easy to see the love and dedication that went into this album, and the feeling he has for life in the old country. Listen and get connected with your own Yiddish soul.
Lider Far Der Neshome
Yiddish Songs For The Soul