Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma / Triumph of Assimilation

Yup. That's Mark Rubin.

Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma / Triumph of Assimilation, 2021
CD or digital download available from Bandcamp.

It's impossible to miss Mark Rubin in a crowd. It's impossible to miss his music even in the diversity that is Bandcamp, or for that matter, YouTube or the entire internet. A few years ago, Rubin decided to pull together his bluegrass and Southern US musical heritage with his Jewish side. In the process, he makes some of the most vital Jewish music today.

This latest outing reprises "The Ballad of Leo Frank," from his "Southern Discomfort" album, includes some wonderful bluegrass , as in his "Yiddish Banjo Suite," or adaptation of "Avinu Malkeinu,", and Americana version of Morris Rosenfeld's "Mayn ruhe platz" ("My resting place"). He creates a uniquely compelling, lively, splenetic view of "down home" Jewish life—"Down South Kosher," if you will, with several pointed messages about assimilation, and about a rising tide of American nativism that, from my own youth spent partially in Richmond, VA and Dallas, TX, rings all too true.

I am also grateful for his cover of Si Kahn's "Unnatural Disasters", both for its evisceration of antisemitic un-logic "whereever we go / it's always bad news / whatever goes wrong / it's always the Jews", and for his Mordecai Gebirtig adaptations. The album opens with "A Day of revenge", based on the Mordecai Gebirtig song of the same name, "On that day will come along / When we right each every wrong / They'll be revenge ... It's coming here like Noah's dove / A message of kindness, Peace and love / That's our revenge." Rubin continues with an adaptation of Gebirtig's "Es Brent," "it burns". The album closes in the only way a Jew of Oklahoma, part-time klezmer, former denizen of Austin now transplanted to New Orleans can: with a rousing "Spin the Dreidel" featuring his current crew (one of his current crews), "Panorama Jazz Band."

There are few musicians I can say, unreservedly, whatever they are doing, you gotta listen. Mark Rubin is one of them. Nobody else could make Gebirtig sound as Southern as Ralph Stanley or Del McCoury. But, let's also get serious. This is a tasty new offering for the new Jewish year. It just doesn't fit into any box other than, "Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma."" This year, may all of our "Avinu Malkeinu's" ring with some downhome banjo. Enjoy.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 29 Aug 2021.

Personnel this recording:
Mark Rubin: guitar, banjo, string bass, mandolin, tuba, banjo guitar, electric bass, percussion and voice
Danny Barnes: banjo (6)
Dylan Blackthorne: accordion: (1, 3)
Michael Ward-Bergeman piano (7)
Mark Hays: drums and tambourine (1, 3, 7)
Rabbi Neil Blumofe: vocals (9)
Panorama Jazz Band: (10)

  • Mark Rubin: Vocal, tenor banjo and tambourine
  • Ben Schenck: Clarinet, leader, gang vocal
  • Aurora Nealand: Alto saxophone, gang vocal
  • Colin Myers: Trombone, gang vocal
  • Michael Ward-Bergeman Accordion, gang vocal
  • Matt Perrine: Sousaphone
  • Doug Garrison: Drums


  1. A Day of Revenge (after "A tog fun nekome" by Mordecai Gebirtig) 2:31
  2. It's Burning (after "S'brent" by Mordecai Gebirtig) 2:33
  3. Down South Kosher 2:20
  4. The murder of Leo Frank 3:53
  5. Yiddish Banjo Suite 3:55
  6. My Resting Place (after "Mayn rue platz" by Morris Rosenfeld) 2:54
  7. Unnatural Disasters (Si Kahn) 3:35
  8. Good Shabbes 1:51
  9. Avinu Malkeinu (words: trad; music: trad/Rubin) 2:11
  10. Spin the dreidel (Music and Yiddish lyrics: Moishe Oysher/Abe Ellstein; Eng lyrics: Mark Rubin; arr. Mark Rubin and Ben Schenk) 4:06

All songs by Mark Rubin unless otherwise noted

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