To the tune of new-school Hassidism

Israeli Breslov Hassid Yosef Karduner's sixth album runs hot and cold, but when it's good, it's great.

hassid disk 88 (photo credit: )
hassid disk 88
(photo credit: )
Eitan Katz L'maancha (Sameach Music) Eitan and Shlomo Katz -- the brothers who put out the folky religious pop disc Biglal Avos - seem to have moved in different directions. While Eitan has stayed in the US and solidified his position as a contemporary Hassidic music chief, Shlomo has established a home in Israel and has made waves with his sublime Shlomo Katz band. The group is set to release a solo album in the coming months. In the meantime, Eitan Katz has completed L'maancha. With most melodies written by Katz himself, the album is a key product for the Sameach distribution network, and they are promoting it heavily on their radio programs and podcasts. Katz writes in the liner notes that true prayer involves diminishing oneself self before the Almighty, with the title concept (and song lyrics inspired by slihot) serving as "the prayer of all prayers." "Mizmor Shir" showcases the production team's bag of tricks, with sections devoted to men's choir, solo vocal, Latin rhythm interplays, saxophone solo and a flashy but short Josh Young guitar solo. This energy doesn't return until halfway through the disc, when the Santana-esque percussion returns on "Kumi Roni." In between are an array of mid-tempo ballads. Despite Katz's shtetl-esque Hebrew pronunciation and penchant for balladeering - which are generally sure signs of run-of-the-mill Hassidic cheese - L'maancha is marked by excellent, non-whiney vocals; performances by human musicians with real chops; and horn parts that are relegated to saxophone solos. Basically, if you must listen to dos-pop, then listen to L'maancha. Yosef Karduner Bakesh Avdecha (Sameach music) Israeli Breslov Hassid Yosef Karduner's sixth album runs hot and cold, but when it's good, it's great. The artist's signature delicate melodies backed by his harp-style guitar finger-plucking can be heard in top form on the title song and on the somewhat Shlomo Artzi-ish "Lev Nishbar." "Ma'aseh" features Rabbi Abish in the role of cryptic, mystical Hassidic storyteller, while "Milei D'Shtuta" employs a festive Island rhythm structure. On the opening "Ben Porat Yosef," Karduner strings together a series of simple melodies into a complex composition. The Moshav Band's "Shabbat Kodesh" is a trippy rendition of a traditional Breslov niggun. Bakesh Avdecha's abundance of tinkly piano makes it more melancholy than Karduner's previous releases. The disc clocks in at under 43 minutes, and not every song is exceedingly memorable, but it's highlights are enough to make it a worthwhile listen. Ben Jacobson can be reached at