(photo credit: Courtesy)
You wouldn’t expect the coastal city of Ashkelon to be a breeding ground for the
earthy blues and Thejazz singing and piano playing that Ruth Dolores Weiss
provides. But then, Weiss was never your average Ashkelon resident… at least not
after her brother gave her a very unique 15th birthday present 17 years
“He bought me the Tom Waits album Bone Machine, and I was totally
intrigued by it,” said Weiss, who began playing the piano at the age of eight.
“It sounded like nothing I had heard before, and it opened my mind to the
possibility of making music that didn’t sound pop or mainstream.”
influence of Waits weighed so heavily on Weiss that nine years later in
when she recorded her debut album of songs in English called Come See,
Waits a copy. However the address proved to be incorrect and the album
returned to her unopened.
But as anyone who has heard the album or its
2008 all-Hebrew follow up Be’Ivrit can attest, Weiss doesn’t need the
of Waits or anybody else. Her talent shines through on both records,
invoking a Mediterranean Billie Holiday on her scintillating original
or creating striking renditions of songs by the likes of Waits, Nick
an powerfully moving version of Chava Alberstein’s “Mshiri Eretz
Ahead of the recording of her next album, Weiss and longtime
collaborator, Yehu Yaron on double bass, have recruited some top
musicians for a
series of shows with the goal of fine tuning the material before heading
the studio. After one album in English and one in Hebrew, If I’m Not
will feature all cover versions of some of her favorite songs.
started performing, I’ve loved playing covers,” said Weiss. “But my
about them is that there’s no point in doing it unless you bring
to the songs, uncover something or show them in a new light.
years, I’ve gathered a decent number of songs that I thought I covered
fashion, and I really felt like putting them all together and giving
arrangements. Our goal was to make an album but we knew that the songs
hearing in our heads were being made for live music, and they would need
played together for a while to enable to have time to mature.
has a different story behind it,” said Weiss. “Robert Wyatt’s
came about because I got requested to do it. A couple of years ago, I
interviewed by Quami from the show Army Radio show “Hakatzeh,” and he
if I would do him a favor and play the song in the studio. I immediately
love with it. It was just Yehu and myself and it was really beautiful
“Billie Holiday’s ‘One For My Baby’ was also a song I fell in
love with the first time I ever heard it when I was 19. I listened to it
times a day for the first few months, and it has a sentimental place in
SHE’S ALSO back in her sentimental home, Israel, after spending
four-and-a-half years living in the US with her husband and two
she continued to perform.
“Surprisingly, at first it was easy to make
We were living in New Jersey, and I found a small place in New
York in the Lower East Side that loved my music and I started playing
regularly,” she said.
“Then we moved to Austin, Texas, where I found it
harder going. My music wasn’t part of any genre that was popular there.
York, there’s a place for everything. But in Austin, which is a great
is rightfully called the live music capital of the US, my music wasn’t
anything else that was going on.”
Despite her return to Israel last year,
Weiss has decided to continue writing the bulk of her material in
because she find composing in her native tongue to be actually more
writing in English.
“I’m really connected to Hebrew and feel an
attachment to it as a language, not only the meaning, but the sound and
rhythm,” she said.
“As a result, every time I started composing lyrics in
Hebrew, it would take months. I got really obsessed with the idea that
word and sound had to fit perfectly, it was like building a crossword
every time. It was too much of an effort for me.”
“Writing in English,
while really being a detachment, is something lighter. It’s not having
feeling of the whole weight of every word ringing a thousand ways in my
Writing in English was easier, it had more of a flow, and it was almost
Whether it’s in English, Hebrew or just the universal language of music,
Dolores Weiss makes herself clearly understood. Catch Weiss, Yaron and
fivepiece band on Thursday night, July 15, at the Einav Cultural Center
Aviv and on July 24 at the Yellow Submarine in Jerusalem.