If you took away their six-string buddies, Lazer Lloyd and Efraim Shamir would never have had any reason to meet. The American-born haredi blues guitarist from Beit Shemesh and the Siberian-born Israeli musical icon from the secular enclave of north Tel Aviv find their common ground on stage, where politics and religion take a back seat to a dialogue of a musical kind.
“I never met anyone in my life more opposite than me in my political and religious views; but aside from that, we’re so close,” laughed Lloyd last week at a Jerusalem coffee shop where, dressed in a work shirt and Jed Clampett hillbilly hat, he could have passed for an honorary member of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
“But we use our differences to our advantage on stage,” he continued. “We do a couple of my songs – like “Am Sheli” and “My Own Blues,” where I sing my lyrics from my point of view and then he takes over with a totally Tel Aviv orientation. It’s funny, and the audience loves it.”
Lloyd and Shamir, the burly guitarist for the legendary Kaveret and countless solo projects and collaborations over the years, first performed together in 2012 after Shamir attended one of Lloyd’s incendiary shows. They struck up a friendship, and Shamir even went into the studio to help Lloyd mix his 2013 album My Own Blues.
“I hadn’t really heard of him, but he introduced himself and we became good friends,” said Lloyd.
“He told me when he agreed to help mix my album, ‘I’m doing this because I want you to be successful.’” Lloyd has enjoyed a rising level of success both in Israel and abroad with his wide-ranging mix of Hendrixian solos, Jewish soul and a hard-rocking groove provided by his band, which consists of bassist Moshe Davidson and drummer Elimelech Grundman. His most recent album, the rootsy acoustic Lost on the Highway, was released in the US on Blues Leaf Records and received a considerable amount of airplay on US alternative music stations.
Concurrently, he’s been performing regularly in the US and has even built a name in Russia.
He’s currently recording an all new electric blues rock album, which is expected to be released in August.
Back home, Lloyd and his band perform a handful of times each month on a regular circuit of rock and blues clubs around the country, in cities and on kibbutzim where he said the thirst for blues is a constant. But his upcoming shows with Shamir – the first of which is on Thursday night, May 29, at the Yellow Submarine in Jerusalem – hold a special place for him.
“For me, making music is great, but I also want to do things where we can bring am Yisrael together,” he said. “It’s something that musicians have to do. It doesn’t make sense if I always play with musicians like myself. I need to play with people like Efraim and reach the other side of Israel.”
Since their last show together, Shamir enjoyed the immensely successful reunion shows of Kaveret, and Lloyd was uncertain whether he would be interested – or still possess a financial motive – to perform with him again.
“I was afraid he wouldn’t want to keep going. After all, he got his retirement money with Kaveret.
But he was as enthusiastic as ever,” said Lloyd, adding that the show would include his own material, some of Shamir’s song and a whole lot of collaboration.
Shamir told The Jerusalem Post’s Barry Davis a couple years ago that he still thrives on performing with a variety of musicians.
“I am like a bee,” he said. “Bees hop from flower to flower and take pollen to make honey.”
What he and Lazer Lloyd are capable of together is indeed very sweet.