Margot Leverett & the Klezmer Mountain Boys
Second Avenue Square Dance

Review by Keith Wolzinger

just about the ugliest cover this year - don't be fooled

Margot Leverett & the Klezmer Mountain Boys
Second Avenue Square Dance

Traditional Crossroads (CD 4339), 2008

Margot Leverett has found her voice with The Klezmer Mountain Boys. The group’s second album, 2nd Avenue Square Dance, offers a further exploration of her deep commitment to the fusion of Klezmer and Bluegrass. The music speaks for itself in the high-spirited offerings on this album.

Leverett and the band give marvelous performances throughout the album, and the guest artists add an extra dimension of authenticity in just the right places. Overall, the album is balanced, well-paced, and is a joy to listen to.

Leverett has a hand in arranging most of the songs, and composed three of them. Bandmate Kenneth Kosek composed two of the Bluegrass songs, which are among the highlights on the album.

Guest Electric Guitar player Jorma Kaukonen is featured on the title track, "Second Avenue Square Dance," as well as on "Electric Kugel," and (Acoustic Guitar) on "Tumbalalaika." It’s fun to hear the Electric Guitar blended in with both the Klezmer and Bluegrass rhythms, and the more subtle work on "Tumbalalaika," along with Leverett’s smooth, lyrical Clarinet make for an interesting twist on the well-known tune.

Darol Anger, of Turtle Island String Quartet fame, also appears, adding his 5-String Fiddle on two tracks. The instrument adds a wonderful quality to the group, and Anger fits in perfectly.

Vocalist Hazel Dickens is featured on the spiritual folk song "Little Moses," and breathes new life into the traditional style of the song. It is a song that comes from the heartland, and speaks of the life of Moses in a way that is unique to the culture of the southeast U.S. mountain region.

Tony Trischka guests on Banjo, and Mike Marshall joins in on 10-String Mandolin. These musicians are already legendary and lend a new texture on the Klezmer-influenced songs. And the solos are a joy, too.

Speaking of solos, all of the band members are given ample space throughout the album. I’m sure it’s a conscious decision by Leverett to step out of the limelight and let the band do their thing. I enjoyed listening to all of them, and it’s really interesting to see what each does with the same melody. Even Bassist Marty Confurious gets a turn on "Mississippi Waltz." He is the one that anchors the band, and does a consistently great job throughout the album.

Of the Klezmer tunes on the album, "Sidney’s Tsveyte Bulgar" is done in the traditional New York style of Sidney Beckerman. It is thoroughly enjoyable, and adds guest Hankus Netsky on Piano. Leverett’s Klezmer stylings here are impeccable.

"Come Along Jody" is my favorite on the album and shows best what the Klezmer Mountain Boys are all about. Along this same vein is the medley of "Lee Highway Blues" and "High Lonesome Honga." These blend Klezmer and Bluegrass very well and would be worth the price of the album by themselves.

Another favorite is "Geena’s Dream," which shows Leverett’s beautiful tonal quality and lyricism. It is a slow piece, and has great acoustic accompaniment, particularly from Anger on the 5-String Fiddle.

The engineering on this recording is remarkable. The Clarinet sounds perfect, considering it is one of the more difficult instruments to record properly. The strings sound equally stunning. Of course the playback suffers a bit through computer speakers and earbuds, but gives a very nice soundstage when listening on larger speakers. Kudos to engineers Lou Holtzman and Jason Richter.

The CD insert is rather minimal, a four-panel booklet with track listings and credits. There is not much more information on any of the websites, but the Traditional Crossroads site does have the lyrics for "Little Moses."

Overall, this is a fabulous album, and I can easily recommend it. The band does a very credible job of being true to both of the musical traditions on the album, and then blends them in a very creative and ear-pleasing way. I’m ready to pay a visit to Klezmer Mountain.

Reviewed by Keith Wolzinger, Klezmer Podcast, 7 Jul 2008.

Personnel this recording:
Margot Leverett: clarinet
Barry Mitterhoff: mandolin
Kenny Kosek: violin
Joe Selly: guitar
Marty Confurius: bass
Jorma Kaukonen: guitars
Hazel Dickens: vocal
Darol Anger: 5-string violin
Mike Marshall: 10-string mandolin
Carlos Oliviera: guitar
Tony Trischka: banjo
Hankus Netsky: piano
David Grier: guitar
Bryn Bright: bass
David Licht: drums
Dudley Connell: guitar and vocal
Ronny Simpkins: bass


  1. Farmer's Market (Margot Leverett) 2:49
  2. Stoney Lonesome (Bill Monroe) 2:54
  3. Electric Kugel (Margot Leverett & Jorma Kaukonen) 2:21
  4. 2nd Avenue Square Dance (trad., arr. Leverett) 2:50
  5. Ternura (K-Ximbinho) 4:17
  6. Little Moses (trad., arr. Leverett) 3:53
  7. Sidney's Tsveyte Bulgar (Sidney Beckerman) 3:01
  8. Calgary Reel (Kenneth Kosek) 2:36
  9. Geena's Dream (Margot Leverett) 3:25
  10. Come Along Jody (Tex Logan) 2:27
  11. Tumbalalaika (trad., arr. Leverett) 1:41
  12. Boreasca (trad., arr. Leverett) 3:05
  13. Mississippi Waltz (Bill Monroe) 3:47
  14. Lee Highway Blues (trad., arr. Leverett) 1:49
  15. High Lonesome Honga (trad., arr. Leverett) 2:11
  16. Abe's Retreat (trad., arr. Leverett) 3:27
  17. Zaydn's Tants (trad., arr. Leverett) 2:01
  18. Porges Waltz (Kenneth Kosek) 3:21

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