Sisters of Sheynville / Sheynville Express
Review by Keith Wolzinger
Sisters of Sheynville
Sheynville Express, 2007
available from cdbaby.com
Sheynville Express is the new release from Sisters Of Sheynville, the all-female Yiddish Swing-Klez group from Toronto. SOS, as they refer to themselves, bases their vocal style on the recordings of the Barry Sisters. But to pigeonhole them would be a great mistake. The sound is a great combination of a contemprory feel while holding true to the Swing tradition. Fronted by Vocalists Isabel Fryszberg and Lenka Lichtenberg, the three-part harmonies are intricate, but easy to listen to.
Probably the most inventive arrangement on the album is "I'm An Old Cow Hand." Yes, it's the old Western-style tune you may be familiar with, but they've added Jewish lyrics. "I'm an old cow hand from Bathhurst and Grand" is a reference to a Jewish neighborhood in Toronto. After the second verse the song goes from a western swing into a German Goldenshteyn Bulgar, then to a latin clave, then a Western movie theme, and back to swing. I like the changing styles. Along with the new lyrics, this song covers a lot of territory.
Then there's the Yiddish classic "Chiribim." A favorite song for many, the middle section is infused with great jazz solos by Saxophonist Jane Fair and Pianist Fern Lindzon. Lindzon also provides the third vocal harmony on the album.
I must mention the outstanding rhythm section of Fern Lindzon on piano, Rachel Melas on Bass, and Lorie Wolf on Drums. These ladies are terrific! They shift between swing, bulgar, latin, and contemporary jazz with ease and absolutely nail each style.
The group is rounded out by the horns with Kinneret Sagee on clarinet, and guests Jane Fair on Sax and Rachel Lemisch on Trombone. They have a great sound, and Sagee's Clarinet evokes the time of many of these songs, when Benny Goodman and Woody Herman were in their heyday.
While these songs are a combination of English and Yiddish, there is one absolute gem among them. "Zivot je jen nahoda" is a great song that starts in English, but comes around again in Czech, the native tongue of Lichtenberg. To hear this in three-part harmony is unusual and exciting. It's clear the language is not easy to pronounce. I tried to sing along, but I almost hurt myself. (Not really, but I think I need some Czech lessons.)
"Blues Stay Away From Me" is a lovely change of pace as a slower song, as is "Halfmoon," an original by Isabel Fryzsberg, done in a similar style.
Another pleasant surprise is Lichtenberg's arrangement of "Sheyn vi di Levone," a well-known Yiddish swing song. This time it is done at a halftime tempo, which allows SOS to bring out more nuance, giving the song a very different feeling.
For Klezmer lovers there is "A Vaybele a Tsnie," a Freylachs that is high energy and makes you want to get up and dance.
The album also includes such classics as "Ketsele Broyges," "Yidl Mitn Fidl," "Di Grine Kuzine," and "Ooh, Mama!". These are all very well done and enjoyable to listen to. This is what makes Yiddish really swing!
The last song, "Ay, Ay, Hora," is a great closer. It is in a fast two and gives a last taste of the great SOS sound.
Speaking of the SOS sound, the recording and engineeering quality on the album is outstanding. Every vocal and instrument is clear and well-defined, and the mix sounds great on everything from earbuds to my home theater. Much credit goes to Producer Eric Stein, of Beyond The Pale and the Ashkenaz Festival, for bringing out the best the group has to offer.
I really liked the musical arrangements of Fern Lindzon, who has a great understanding of the varied musical styles on the album. The vocal arrangements by Lenka Lichtenberg are wonderful as well, highlighting the vocal talent of these gifted singers.
The 16-page CD booklet is nicely laid out, with both Yiddish and English lyrics and plenty of photos. One of the pages is about the concept for the album and the background of the band.
While these ladies are not really sisters, and there is no place called Sheynville (they say it is really a special place in their hearts and minds), the music here is genuine and impassioned. It left me wanting more. So stamp my passport, I'm hopping on the Sheynville Express!
To hear my interview with the Sisters of Sheynville, listen to Klezmer Podcast 24.
Reviewed by Keith Wolzinger, 14 Dec, 2007.
Personnel this recording:
Lenka Lichtenberg: vocals
Isabel Fryszberg: vocals
Fern Lindzon: piano, vocals
Rachel Melas: string bass
Kinneret Sagee: clarinet
Lorie Wolf: drums
Rachel Lemish: trombone (tracks 1,4)
Jane Fair: tenor saxophone (tracks 5, 7, 12)
Links to MP3s courtesy the Sisters of Sheynville website
- Ketsele Broyges (folk song, arrangement: Fern Lindzon, Eric Stein) 3:22
- Yidl mitn Fidl (Abe Ellstein, Itzik Manger; arr: Sam Medoff; Vocal arr: Lenka Lichtenberg) 2:56
- Sheyn vi di Levone (music; Joseph Rumshinsky; text: Chaim Tauber; Eng Lyrics and arr. Lenka Lichtenberg) 3:43
- A Vaybele a Tsnie (music: Joseph Rumshinsky; lyrics: Isador Lillian) 2:53
- Di Grine Kuzine (music: Abe Schwartz; lyrics: J. Leyzerowitz/Hyman Prizant; Inst arr: Fern Lindzon, vocal arr and solo vocal Lenka Lichtenberg) 4:19
- I'm an Old Cow Hand (Johny Mercer; add'l lyrics: Isabel Fryszberg; Inst arr: Fern Lindzon; vocal arr: Lenka Lichtenberg) 4:29
- Chiribim (trad folk; vocal arr: Lenka Lichtenberg) 3:19
- Halfmoon (Isabel Fryszberg; vocal arr: Lenka Lichtenberg; lead vocal: Isabel Fryszberg) 2:46
- Eyshes Chayil (music: Joseph Rumshinsky; lyrics: Isador Lillian) 2:46
- Život je jen náhoda (lyrics: Jiri Voskovec/Jan Werich; music: Jaroslav Jezek; English lyrics & arr: Lenka Lichtenberg) 3:55
- Ooh, Mama! Bin ikh Farlibt! (Abe Ellstein) 2:06
- Blues Stay Away from Me (Delmore Brothers; add'l Yiddish lyrics: Isabel Fryszberg; vocal arr: Lenka Lichtenberg)4:21
- Ay Ay Hora (Abe Ellstein; arr: Fern Lindzon) 2:37