Maya Isacowitz came roaring back into town, putting on a sold-out show last week
at Jerusalem’s Yellow Submarine club that lived up to the expectations many had
for the pint-sized redhead Israeli indie/folk singer-songwriter, who last
performed in the capital nearly a year ago.
Isacowitz’s absence was not
due to any falling out with the city; rather she’s been trying her luck in the
Big Apple for much of 2013. Indeed, she really only flew in for the High Holiday
season and will be heading back to New York by the end of the month, where she’s
currently in the middle of recording her second album.
York experience (“overwhelming and confusing,” she says) was fodder for some of
her between-song patter, and it’s part of what makes her so endearing: she
speaks with her fans as if they’re family, telling stories about her mother’s
cooking and over-protectiveness as she launches into an achingly beautiful
tribute to the woman she says, with no pretension, that she “loves so, so
That Isacowitz could be found in the lobby signing CDs right after
the show, posing for pictures and modestly mingling with her fans, further
drives home the “she’s one of us” feeling that doesn’t seem part of an
And, while she clearly owns the stage with her big voice, a cross
between Alanis Morisette, Joan Osborne and Tracy Chapman, with a little Tori
Amos thrown in for good measure, it’s not hard to imagine the shy girl from
Kibbutz Ma’ayan Baruch in Israel’s north who, through her own admission, was too
timid to play more than a few well-worn cover songs when she performed for the
first time at an open mic night just a few years ago. (Now 26, she only picked
up the guitar, she says, at age 14.) Maybe it’s the way she demurely swallows
her words, Michael Stipe-like, when she sings, but it’s clear Isacowitz won’t
need to twerk to prove her chops.
Isacowitz’s first album, Safe and
Sound, came out in 2012, and has nearly gone gold in Israel, selling just under
20,000 copies to date. She was named “Discovery of the Year” by the Israeli
music licensing group ACUM and she’s received extensive airplay on Israel’s top
music station, Galgalatz.
Her performance last week included her longtime
collaborator and cousin, Shai Lochoff, on guitar, percussionist Keren Tepperberg
and string virtuoso Eran Weitz, who played electric guitar, banjo and an
instrument called a pedal steel, essentially a steel-string guitar laid out
horizontally like a piano, which added an slightly country twang to many of her
Isacowitz’s one-hour set (with another 20 minutes of encores)
covered her biggest hits from Safe and Sound, which are entirely in English (her
parents immigrated to Israel from South Africa and she grew up speaking English
Isacowitz previewed several new tunes that suggest we may be
hearing a harder-edged folk direction on her forthcoming album. She closed the
show with her sole Hebrew number, the tender/angry shout-out to relationship
woes, “Ein Li Manos” (I have no choice).
You can catch Isacowitz one more
time in Israel before she flies out – she plays Zappa Tel Aviv on Tuesday,
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