“a richly varied album with top-class musicianship and a wide potential appeal”
“Cut after cut, this CD is gorgeous, inspired playing; musical cliches are noted and then turned inside out.”
“Leverett’s novel arrangements make the traditional melodies from Appalachia sit comfortably alongside their Eastern European counterparts. Even if ‘Leather Britches’ was not written for clarinet, Leverett convinces that from now on, this is how it should be.”
“The Carpathians meet the Appalachians in this brilliant klezmer-bluegrass fusion album.”
American Jewish World
“a terrific album”
Klezmer-clarinetist Margot Leverett joins forces with today's stars of klezmer and bluegrass to explore the shared musical spirit of two genres literally worlds apart. Appalachian tunes by Bill Monroe meet klezmer melodies from pre-war Russia and Eastern Europe, some newly discovered, and the resulting medleys and improvisations are at once raw, funny, melancholic and footstomping. The Klezmer Mountain Boys include Leverett on clarinet, acclaimed fiddler Kenny Kosek, mandolin-player Barry Mitterhoff, guitarist Joe Selly and bass-player Marty Confurius.
CD features guest appearances by some of today's most important klezmer artists, including the Klezmatics' FRANK LONDON along with his KLEZMER BRASS ALLSTARS, accordionist and Yiddish singer MICHAEL ALPERT, Folksbienne theater director and pianist ZALMEN MLOTEK, and Azerbaijani pianist RUSLAN AGABABAYEV.
1. Cluck Ol' Hen & Kolomeyke
2. Klezmer Waltz
3. Russian Sher & "Growling Old Man, Growling Old Woman"
4. Git Morgn
5. Leather Britches
6. Leibes Tanz
7. Kentucky Dance Medley: Bill Monroe meets Sid Beckerman
8. Lonesome Moonlight Waltz & Volich
9. Lonesome Fiddle Blues & Sid's Bulgars
10. F major Bulgar
11. Sea of Reeds
12. A Redl & A Volich
13. Yiddish Folk Medley
Seth Rogovoy, author, The Essential Klezmer: A Music Lover's Guide to Jewish Roots and Soul Music: "That bluegrass and klezmer music should find an affinity for each other in the work of Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys should come as no surprise. After all, what are bluegrass and klezmer at their very foundation but country music and Old Country music, both with roots in separate traditions of old-time, string-band music, spiffed up and polished and played by cosmopolitan virtuosos who, in the case of bluegrass, had one foot in the Appalachians and the other in the Grand Ol' Opry, and who, in the case of klezmer, had one foot in the shtetl and the other in New World nightclubs.
And what are bluegrass and klezmer but distinctive forms of soul music reflecting the particular idioms of their lineage--in the case of bluegrass, the high, lonesome sound of the Old South, built upon a mixture of African-derived blues and gospel and Anglo-Irish folk, that Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley channeled into a vocal and instrumental art form that would draw on jazz and inspire everyone from Elvis Presley (whose first hit, "That's All Right," was B-sided by a version of Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky") to Bob Dylan (whose first album included a version of Stanley's "Man of Constant Sorrow") to the Coen Brothers (whose old-timey soundtrack to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" was the surprise hit of the millennium).
Likewise, Dave Tarras and Naftule Brandwein, the influential immigrant-era klezmer clarinetists, adapted the achy, bent, crying-yet-laughing sound of the clarinet from the Old World fiddle (another bluegrass-klezmer connection)--a sound which in itself was already modeled on the sound of the synagogue khazn, or cantor, whose prayer melodies evoked the spiritual profundity reflective of the two-thousand-year experience of exile--the Jewish, high lonesome sound, if you will. Mix in a little Gypsy, a little Romanian, and some early jazz, shake and stir, and Old Country music went to town dressed up as klezmer.
Both are rootsy and roots-based, both are mountain musics (the Appalachians on the one hand, the Carpathians on the other), and both provide the instrumental soloists with plenty of room for self-expression within the constraints of highly-codified modes, scales and song forms. It shouldn't be surprising that they work well together. Margot Leverett wasn't the first to see this. Since the early days of the klezmer revival in the 1970s, key figures such as Andy Statman have straddled both worlds. But with this debut album by Margot Leverett and the Klezmer Mountain Boys, klezmer and bluegrass have never sounded so right together--a new, quintessentially American music, a melting-pot fusion that is an eloquent testament to the democratic experiment."
“Another project that combines the Jewish Old World with vintage Americana is Margot Leverett & the Klezmer Mountain Boys. This disc is a successful commingling of klezmer and bluegrass. Leverett brings considerable experience to the experiment; she’s worked with KCB and co-founded The Klezmatics. Her novel arrangements make the traditional melodies from Appalachia sit comfortably alongside their Eastern European counterparts. Even if ‘Leather Britches’ was not written for clarinet, Leverett convinces that from now on, this is how it should be.”
“this new album....cements the affinity between [bluegrass and klezmer]. Intellectually, one could make the case that both forms emanated from mountains--Appalachian and Carpathian. And that both reflected the travails of forlorn populations. But that misses the point. Simply put, klezmer and bluegrass sound as if they were meant to be combined. At least that’s the conclusion after listening to this terrific album, which provides several seamless transitions as the players swing back and forth between bulgars and hoedowns....There are many moments of this sort as the waltzes veer from mournful shtetl tunes to hillbilly high and back again. Whether a truly new hybrid can result is hard to know. There’s certainly plenty of room for others to experiment. Or perhaps this is nothing more than a one-off attempt at making something new. Either way, Leverett & the Klezmer Mountain Boys have given us a wonderful gift. To use a label, this is truly world music. More than that, they’ve opened our ears to possibilities. And what a wonderful way to have some fun.”
Songlines - Top of the World
“This is essentially a klezmer disc under the direction of clarinettist Margot Leverett (who recorded the excellent Art of Klezmer Clarinet for Traditional Crossroads) with guest contributions from top bluegrass fiddler Kenny Kosek. Klezmer strongly stresses the downbeat while bluegrass rides on the offbeat, so they sensibly juxtapose the two styles rather than combine them--you can hear the distinct shift in gear on the first track, between the tunes ‘Cluck Ol’ Hen’ and ‘Kolomeyke’. There are even some sequences (like ‘Kentucky Dance Medley’) which slip neatly between barn dance and bar mitzvah. Frank London’s Klezmer Brass Allstars bring a raucous earthiness to a couple of numbers while pianists Ruslan Agababayev and Zalmen Mlotek provide an air of gentle sophistication elsewhere. For klezmer collectors there are even some Russian tunes recorded here for the first time. It’s a richly varied album with top-class musicianship and a wide potential appeal.”
American Jewish World
“The Carpathians meet the Appalachians in this brilliant klezmer-bluegrass fusion album. Acclaimed clarinetist Margot Leverett has assembled a group of ace musicians.... This is not the first album to blend the klezmer and bluegrass idioms...but it’s the most fully realized and satisfying effort to date.”
“a seamless segue from one genre to another...The band will play Bill Monroe’s ‘Lonesome Moonlight Waltz’, in which Leverett, Kosek and Mitterhoff take solos, and in the course of three guitar notes the group shifts to a Russian Jewish waltz. This happens in a momentary pause in Leverett’s clarinet lead and it takes listeners several seconds to realize the subtle shift in melody amounts to genre-hopping. Listen closely to Leverett playing bluegrass leads on her clarinet and you will acknowledge that it is indeed still bluegrass, but the rarity of the woodwind sound in bluegrass makes it almost sound like a whole new genre.....
Asked to assess Leverett and her band banjo player Andy Rubin...said: ‘Their ensemble ability is just spectacular. That level of musicianship raises the bar for everybody’.”
“In this wonderfully successful experiment, Margot Leverett, leading clarinetist of the modern klezmer revival, teams up with virtuoso bluegrass musicians Barry Mitterhoff on mandolin, fiddler Kenny Kosek, guitarist Joe Selly and bassist Marty Confurius for music drawn from both traditions and for medleys that seamlessly segue from Bill Monroe tunes to traditional Eastern European bulgars. Leverett’s clarinet is a joy to hear as it blends and trades licks and lines with the stringed instruments.”
“Thirteen magnificent songs, be it bluegrass classics or pure klezmer, the combination is a winner....the musicianship is of the highest level throughout the entire CD.”
“a pioneering attempt at exploring what happens when bluegrass combines with traditional klezmer”
“From the slowly brightening ‘Git Morgn’ to the strapping ‘Leather Britches’, there is plenty of toe-tapping fun.”
Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle
“Everything is performed with breathtaking skill. Leverett especially astonishes with her ability to play fast fiddle tunes on clarinet.”
“Forget the eye rolling! There is nothing gimmicky about the combination of klezmer and bluegrass. Kenny Kosek’s fiddle starts ‘Cluck Ol’ Hen’ with a suggestion of Kenny Baker in a pensive mood then quickly resolves to klezmer vibrato and ornamentation and just as quickly back to bluegrass. In chimes Leverett’s klezmer clarinet. Here comes Barry Mitterhoff, choosing to keep his mandolin to bluegrass style, as does Joe Selly on guitar. Segue to a klezmer dance, everyone plays in Old Country style, but wait? Is that a bluegrass rhythm chop? So it goes throughout the album. Somtimes playing it straight, as on ‘Klezmer Waltz,’ with Kosek’s fiddle and Confurious’s bowed bass melting around Leverett’s clarinet, Mitterhoff and Selly taking turns on plucked leads.
The ‘Kentucky Dance Medley’ is subtitled ‘Bill Monroe Meets Sid Beckerman’--kind of a musical summit meeting. It works beautifully, moving into ‘Wheel Hoss’ with clarinet twinning the fiddle perfectly. Anybody remember the band Breakfast Special? This treatment of ‘Lonesome Fiddle Blues’ brings that early Kosek recording back to mind. Cut after cut, this CD is gorgeous, inspired playing; musical cliches are noted and then turned inside out.” --Sing Out!
Ari Davidow, Klezmer Shack
“A lonesome fiddle sounds as the album opens. The ear prepares for the bluegrass sounds of Margot Leverett’s klezmer clarinet. I don’t understand how it all fits so well, but the bluegrass fiddling and picking that fit in seamlessly with Leverett’s clarinet playing not bluegrass, but clear, klezmer riffs, does work.
....the playing is just so incredibly good. This is the sort of album that causes the listener to stop, periodically, just to listen and to relisten to the virtuosity and skill with which bluegrass and klezmer, and most important, just plain old music are turned into celebrations...”