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It's been over four years since Reva L'Sheva released a studio album, and Ve'sham Nashir picks up where the embattled band left off - with adult-friendly guitar rock mostly written by front man Yehudah Katz, a few Shlomo Carlebach covers, and signs of increasing creative input from keyboard player/alternate vocalist Chanan Elias. As illustrated on their last release, 2004's 10 Live, Reva L'Sheva has always been more of an exciting live act than a studio band, but Ve'sham Nashir is a fun album that showcases some strong new material.
The opener, "My World," uses lines from the Mishna to explore Fifties pop-rock. The picking on "Over All" borrows from "Norwegian Wood," while "In God We Trust" mixes a festive shtetl-sounding groove with a great thump beat for some interesting fusion. Carlebach's "Pit'hu Li" starts out as a standard cover version, but gets jazzy when the chord progression changes subtly for the guitar solo. And "Jumpin' (in the Red Sea)," written by master bassist Adam Wexler, is a funky island groove -one almost expects the chorus to include the line "We hope you like jumpin' too."
Robbi Sherwin, the hazzanit from Congregation Kol Halev of Austin, Texas, recently spent a year in Colorado serving as a chaplain for the US Air Force Academy and as a guest cantor at two congregations. The experience changed Sherwin forever, and she decided to document this spiritual growth with her second studio album, Aish Hakodesh. Since Sherwin is also a member of the American southwest's Sababa ensemble, she recruited more than one Sababa cohort in making the album.
Sonically, Aish Hakodesh is mostly mid-tempo feel-good adult rock. Sherwin does vary her offerings though. The title track serves as an energetic opener, "Barchu" is appropriately an atmospheric call to prayer and "V'shamru" is pure banjo-pickin' fun that she calls "Jewgrass." Thematically, the album varies quite a bit as well, with most of the tracks exploring traditional Jewish texts and a generous dose of American spiritual awakening. Possibly the most extremely preachy and political moment on the album takes place on Sherwin's revised "Hu Ya'aseh," where she urges us, "God can't do it alone / We've got to do out partâ€¦. / Spread over us Your shelter of peace today / From Jerusalem to Gaza and the USA."
Ben Jacobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.