One country girl, two rugged city folk, three albums... Jane Bordeaux is at it again. They look like Peter, Paul and Mary, they sing Bob Dylan covers, but Jane Bordeaux’s sound is 100% their own.
In a world overrun by social learning, it is far too easy to fall into the traps of mimicry, retracing the footsteps of those musical icons who came before. However, the dynamic Israeli trio, fronted by singer-songwriter Doron Talmon, has introduced an unexpected element to the popular American country- folk style: Hebrew.
“I don’t know if [Hebrew] adds anything to the style, but the music adds something to the Hebrew,” says Talmon. “Israel doesn’t really have any solid folk music. Everybody came from different places – Europe, Egypt, Yemen – so our country’s ‘folk’ music has always stemmed from somewhere else.”
Not only did Talmon recognize this insufficiency, she set out to correct it. With the influence of her mother’s rich American country album collection, and a passion for horseback riding and all that’s associated with it (specifically Johnny Cash), the budding singer-songwriter seized the opportunity to bring new meaning to folk music in Israel – one that did not bring up visuals of 50-plus Israelis blocking the bike path along Gordon Beach.
It’s become such a palatable sound that staid establishments like Bank Discount have recruited the group to record a jingle – “Discount is a better fit for you” – that seems to appear on the country’s radio stations every five minutes.
While Talmon lists her reasons for choosing Hebrew when representing the English-rooted genre – it’s the language she thinks and feels in, plus she grew up in the Israeli countryside (the Golan Heights) – singing in her native tongue was not always on the agenda.
After her army service and some routine globe-trotting, Talmon settled at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, where she was invited to take part in a songwriting competition.
“I actually started writing in English, but the competition required Hebrew content,” she recounts. What started off as a challenge quickly evolved into a blessing in disguise as Talmon’s “humor shone through. I could express my humor better in my own language. And the more it came out in the lyrics, the more bittersweet the songs were.”
Talmon cherished this newfound bittersweet motif, which created a blend of lyrical sadness and fun bluegrass melodies – symptomatic of the old country style.
She may not have won the competition, but she gained two important assets: double bass player Mati Gilad, and the seeds of what would soon turn out to be Army radio station Galgalatz’s most played band of 2015.
“A lot happened in those three years,” explains Talmon. “We started out as a country rock band with five musicians including an electric guitarist and drummer, but I couldn’t find my place.”
At the time, Talmon was still a very young singer; she lacked the maturity and vocal prowess to stand out among the riptide of personalities. “I felt the band was strong, while I had not yet found my voice.”
When Jane Bordeaux was whittled down to three for “practical reasons: we wanted to travel in one single car to every stage and bar in the country,” their acoustic sound solidified as did Talmon’s confidence.
“It suddenly felt so right. The texts came out, the stories developed, and the instruments no longer overpowered me.”
It was with Gilad and guitarist/ ukele player Amir Ze’evi that Jane Bordeaux stormed the local music scene, creating feelgood songs like “Einav” that can’t help but make you grin from ear to ear.
Ironically, the song that gave them their kick-start was originally rejected on several grounds. In their earlier phase, the band was also turned down by many festivals, who felt that they were “too indie for the mainstream, and too mainstream for the indie.”
Nonetheless, Doron prides herself on working through every obstacle thrown her way; she views them as contributions to the trio’s personal and professional growth. Ma She’Hashoov, Jane Bordeaux’s second album, which was released this past summer, is a reflection of the band’s constant growth. It is much richer than the first, with added layers and instrumentation, while maintaining the soothing vibes that beg you to get out of bed and go for a stroll, even in the pouring rain.
While the band has a host of cozy concerts lined up for the chilly months of winter – from a couple of Zappa shows in Haifa and Herzliya to a February gig at the Barby (Tel Aviv), to bidding March adieu at Jerusalem’s Yellow Submarine – despite their ever-growing popularity, they have no intentions of heading abroad.
“Performing abroad is a commitment, it’s a way of life. I live here, my family is here, my friends are here. Of course, it’s a long-lost dream to be a rock star in Europe or the States, but that dream is complicated, and I’m a realist.”
Talmon’s honesty is refreshing.
More refreshing is her commitment to the music for music’s sake. Too many Israeli bands reformat their image to fit the international stage, failing to preserve their musical integrity along the way. Talmon, on the other hand, remains loyal to her Hebrew-American country-folk style, even if it limits her ability to branch out overseas.
“I didn’t start playing this kind of music because I wanted to succeed, I started because I wanted to make music, which is why I became successful. If I ever choose to write English lyrics, it will be because I want to express myself in English... same with electronic music, or rap music for that matter.”
For now though, Talmon is staying put and with good reason: barely a year after the release of Jane Bordeaux’s second album, they already have a third on the way.
Talmon doesn’t reveal much about the new “collection of stories” as she calls it, but if it’s anything like the leaps and bounds made between their raw, very innocent first album and their well-rounded, pensive second, we can expect an even more refined sound, a more full-bodied Bordeaux, if you will.
And that’s not all the trio has on their busy agenda this season. After their fluke of an animated music video that gave their single “Ma’agalim” its charm (the animators approached them and not the other way around), the band is finally working on another video in the hopes of shedding new light the frontwoman’s favorite single of the second album, “Rotza Livkot.”
The emotive single may shine through the voice of a woman, but the safe space Talmon creates allows for universal expression available to all genders. Despite being outnumbered by her male counterparts, Talmon is confident in the “gender-free world” she has created, whereby “all four of us [drums included] are free from gender barriers.”
So what’s your secret? “Concerts,” she answers. “We came from the crowds; our first album was crowd-funded, our shows connect a lot of people through our small niche, which connects us to them. As long as our fans are happy, we’ll keep making music for them in the hopes that the road keeps surprising us for the better.”Stay connected to Jane Bordeaux’s via their website: www.jb-band.com.