Mare Winningham / Refuge Rock Sublime

Review by Keith Wolzinger

album cover

Mare Winningham / Refuge Rock Sublime, 2007
Craig 'n' Co

CD available from

When Craig Taubman told me earlier this year that his company had released an album by Mare Winningham I was a bit perplexed. I was familiar with her work as an actress, but I didn't have any idea of what the album would be about. Dramatic reading or music? Well, I recently received a copy and what I found far exceeded my expectations.

Be prepared to let go of any notions you have of what Jewish music is. This is a collection of songs about Judaism and comes from a very different place than Europe-rooted Jewish music. This is truly an American album and is done in a—get ready—Country Music style.

The first thing that struck me about Refuge Rock Sublime was the deep spirituality form the original somgs by Winningham. The other thing that was surprising to me was how natural the Hebrew lyrics sound in this context. It is amazing how the language and ideas expressed can be adapted and made universal in such an intersting way.

There are six originals by Winningham, and she composed music for two existing poems. There are also some liturgy-based songs in Hebrew, and one of the most moving versions of Hatikvah that I have heard.

A few songs worth noting:

  • "My Fixed Point" is a song about the values to be learned from the Torah and how central its teachings are in Jewish life. This is expressed in the line: "My Torah will be a fixed point in my life."

  • "Wall Of Prayer" is about the protective power of prayer, whether we pray for ouselves or others.

  • "The World To Come" is about a vision of the afterlife and reuniting with our departed ones.

  • "A Convert Jig" is about what she learned during her conversion to Judaism. I like the line: "I will be a Jew like all of you and dance a convert jig."

  • "Oh Moses" answers her question of who you would most like to meet. Who wouldn't like to have dinner with Moses if given the chance?

The recording quality is outstanding, thanks to Producer Tim Crouch and Engineer Jon Raney. I love the clarity and blend of the guitar, mandolin, and fiddle throughout the album.

The lyrics are not included in the packaging, nor did I find them online. I hope they will be made available sometime soon.

Refuge Rock Sublime is a remarkable achievement, and deserves serious consideration as an addition to any collection of Jewish music in the truest sense. I feel like dancing a Jig myself. How about you?

Reviewed by Keith Wolzinger, Nov 12, 2007

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