Geva Alon’s enlightenment

The folk-rocking singer-songwriter, who has forged an alluring Americana sound, is hosting Spanish guitarist Depedro.

Depedro 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Depedro 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Geva Alon can’t remain our own little secret for much longer.
The 32-year-old singer-songwriter has emerged over the last six years as one of the country’s musical gems – on one song a sensitive alt-country troubadour, and on the next capable of unleashing a squalling full band wall of sound.
The comparisons to Neil Young’s dual folky and rocker personas are not that far off, filtering down to Alon’s full-bodied voice singing in impeccable English, rich songwriting and masterful guitar playing. But the accomplished kibbutz-bred performer isn’t just mimicking an established style or artist, he’s forged his own alluring Americana sound that matures with each new album.
Alon’s first solo effort, 2006’s Days of Hunger, released after years spent performing with his indie rock band The Flying Baby and playing guitar for power-popper Shay Noblemen, featured acoustic country-flavored acoustic guitar and harmonies. It was followed in 2007 by The Wall of Sound, which included a heartfelt cover version of David Bowie’s “Modern Love,” which became a hit on local radio. His 2009 Get Closer, produced by indie American studio whiz Thom Monahan (known for his work with The Jayhawks, Silver Jews and Dinosaur Jr.), proved to be another giant leap forward, with Alon being ably backed by jam rockers Tree on everything from psychedelic raveups to rustic country tunes.
Three years later, Alon teamed up again with Monahan to record the upcoming The Morning Light. Its first single, “The Great Enlightenment,” has been released, and next week Alon will be performing three shows with special guest Spanish roots guitarist Jairo “Depedro” Zavala.
“This album was kind of an adventure for me,” said Alon in a phone conversation earlier this week. “To start with, we recorded it in a small village in Spain – it was the first time I recorded outside of Israel. The other thing is that Thom brought in musicians with him from the US whom I had never met before we started recording.”
It was quite a change from the process he went through with Get Closer, when he and Tree, his touring band over the last two and a half years, spent months rehearsing the songs before going into the studio.
“This time, the musicians [Otto Hauser (drums) and Daniel Hindman (guitar) from American folk band Vetiver, and Rufus Wainwright bassist Jeff Hill] had only heard acoustic demos that I had recorded at home.
We built the arrangements right there in the studio and recorded the songs right away,” said Alon.
“I was really nervous about it at first, but I trusted Thom to know what was good for the album. He brought in players he had worked with many times in the past, and I let go and went with him. We all connected right away, and the atmosphere and chemistry was wonderful. Sometimes you have to do scary stuff in order to move forward.”
That includes making a break with longtime musical accomplices Tree, who are pursuing their own recording and touring career and forming a new touring band.
Calling the decision difficult but exciting, Alon said he turned to some old friends to make the transition easier, including his drummer in the Flying Baby, Itzhar Tannenbaum, and longtime friend Yiftah Shahaf on guitar.
“It’s great to play with people I’ve known for years, and they’re really finding the right interpretation for the live versions of the songs I recorded for the album,” said Alon.
The decision to record The Morning Light came from a suggestion by Monahan, who told Alon about Paco Loco studios in Cadiz, Spain, a studio the producer had previously used and enjoyed.
“Either Thom was going to come to Israel again or I was going to go to him in the US to record,” he said.
“This was middle way for both us. He told me that it was out in the countryside, you could really get away and concentrate on the music. And it was really important for me to remove myself from day-to-day life during the recording and get into a different scene.”
The other fringe benefit of recording in Spain for Alon was hooking up with Depedro, the celebrated Spanish singer/songwriter who has built a strong following in Israel due to his Tel Aviv shows in recent years with Arizona indie favorites Calexico and more recently as a headliner on his own. Alon was one of those fans smitten with Depedro, and following the completion of his album, he performed with the Spanish star at a number of shows.
“Those shows were really great.There was this personal connection, and we became friends,” said Alon. “We said, ‘Listen, this can’t be the last time this happens,’ so we made this opportunity for him to come here and join me and the band.”
The shows are scheduled for February 9 at the Beat in Haifa; February 10 at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv; and February 11 at The Yellow Submarine in Jerusalem.
“He’ll come out and play a few of his songs with us backing him, and then he’s going to be part of my band on some other songs. It’s going to be really interesting.”
Not only that, but it will be an opportunity to witness two articulate, nuanced rock ‘n’ rollers at the top of their game.