Bringing the South to the Mideast

Bringing the South to th

In a country where buffalo sauce and PBR don't exist and bourbon carries a heavy import tax, the dearth of Americana fortunately no longer extends to the music scene. With an assortment of stringed instruments plucked in the best tradition of American folk, the band HOLLER! is Israel's answer to Tennessee's front porch jams. Straw hats, plaid shirts and one very southern twang all complete the group's prairie vibe as the band lives up to its credo - 'put a little "south" in the Middle East.' This week, HOLLER! officially releases its eagerly awaited self-titled album. The album consists of many of the band's classics, well-known from their live performances throughout Israel over the past three years as well as more recent compositions. The result plays like a Greatest Hits album for the young band, with its irresistibly energetic sounds and verses that beg the listener to join in. Forged in the fateful days of late 2006, the band was conceived over a holiday meal. The shidduch occurred over a Shabbat dinner in French Hill shortly after Jersey-born Ami Yares and Georgia-born Barak Cohen each immigrated to the holy land. Some time between Kiddush and dessert, the then independent musicians decided to try playing together at an open mike night and thus HOLLER! was both conceived and born in what is commonly referred to in bluegrass lingo as a double mitzvah. Over time new members joined the band. Today HOLLER! is a sextet consisting of founders Ami Yares on guitar, banjo, and his Smoky Mountain vocals and Barak Cohen on the djembe, rub board and his smooth southern vocals. Virtuosic guitarist and international freelance journalist Jason Reich (mandolin, guitars, lap steel) joined the band with the departure of original lead guitarist David Bernay and brought with him his roommate Tamar Schoppik on the fiddle, his buddy Eliran Kononowicz on drums, promotion and web design, and his brother Zechariah, who has made a name for himself playing in Jerusalem on the bass. The six current members have been playing together for over a year now, each enriching the timbre of the band's sound. The album opens with "Talkin' Blues 'Bout You(s)," a bluesy song with the eternal theme of lost love that engages the ear as it inspires the feet. The song fittingly opens with the lonely notes of a sole guitar, before the rest of the instruments join in, much like the development of the band itself. Also featured is the irrepressible "I know, I know," the fiddle-driven single that begs the audience to sing along and get up out of their seats. The slow, conflicted "Jerusalem" is a fascinating ode to the ex-pat's adopted home. It opens with the banjo and quickly delves into the city's complexity, "Still you talk about united, but you're thoughtlessly divided; You got to wear down those walls on the inside and out." After several years of developing as a band and paying its dues, HOLLER!'s album release signifies the band at its tipping point as it enters its prime with limitless potential on the horizon. Experience the Israeli-infused Americana sounds for yourself with the album release mini tour starting Wednesday, December 2 at Sublime in Tel Aviv, Thursday at the Carmiel Folk Club, Friday at Jacob's Ladder Winter Festival, and Saturday night at Jerusalem's Hakatze on Rehov Shushan. So throw on your cowboy boots and dancing overalls for a jolly ole time. For the latest HOLLER! updates and show listings go to To purchase the new album go to itunes or