Review: Zoe & Cloyd: I Am Your Neighbor

Bluegrass of course started with Bill Monroe’s “high, lonesome sound” of Kentucky, but for those of you following modern bluegrass the scene has grown much bigger than that, and you might be more than a little familiar with the sounds of “Colorado Grass” and “San Francisco Grass”.

Asheville NC has had a burgeoning music scene for quite a number of years now, and has developed something of its own sound. Zoe and Cloyd make their home there, contributing to and being inspired by the music scene.

Natalya Zoe Weinstein was classically trained in her home state of Massachusetts, and covers the fiddle and vocals, John Cloyd Miller is a 12th generation North Carolinian, and the grandson of bluegrass fiddle pioneer Jim Shumate, in addition to being a multi-instrumentalist and an award winning songwriter.

I Am Your Neighbor is Zoe and Cloyd’s third album, following Equinox and Eyes Brand New. The new album is also something of a concept album, yes, about being neighbors and, even if we are all different, the world would be a better place with more kindness and respect. You can look for the theme playing as an undercurrent throughout the album, but you can also sit back and just enjoy all the fine music.

And the sound? “Appalachian string band” describes it perfectly. Zoe’s sweet vocals rise over soaring fiddle runs, Cloyd comes in with gorgeous guitar riffs and laid-back banjo accents. The instruments trade leads without delving into flashy solos, and Zoe and Cloyd’s beautiful harmonies make this album something special. I can only say it is all very tastefully done!

Rising from Zoe’s background are several klezmer influenced songs, “Berdichever Sher” and Zisa Meydele.” This isn’t the first time I’ve heard klezmer and bluegrass mixed, and I’m not enough of a music expert to explain “how” it works, I just know that it does. Maybe because both kinds of music are at their roots “folk”?

On the more traditional front “The Only Game In Town” (she’s dressing up to hit the town, but not for him), “Rising Waters” (speaking of undercurrents, is it just a flood, or there are other troubles rising too?).

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“I Am Your Neighbor”

And the song “Neighbor”? We might be different, “…but do not be afraid, fear leads to hate”.
I think a lot can be learned from this. At the very least don’t be afraid to listen to something new, I think you’ll be very happy to give this new album a chance!

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