Sometimes you just can’t beat the artist’s own website for an introduction! 🙂
“Hailing from opposite ends of the Appalachian mountains, Zoe & Cloyd is renowned fiddler and vocalist Natalya Zoe Weinstein and award-winning songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist John Cloyd Miller. Their show is as diverse as their upbringing: coming from a lineage of klezmer and jazz musicians, Natalya trained classically in her home state of Massachusetts before moving south in 2004. John, a twelfth generation North Carolinian and grandson of pioneering bluegrass fiddler, Jim Shumate, is a 1st place winner of the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest as well as an Artist Fellowship recipient for songwriting from the North Carolina Arts Council. Both Natalya and John are instructors in the Traditional Music Program at Warren Wilson College.”
Rebuild is the duo’s fourth album, following 2019’s I Am Your Neighbor. Like the prior album Rebuild focuses on, yes, getting along with your neighbors, but just as the past two years of our lives the album is much colored by the effects of the pandemic.
Besides their sweet harmonies Zoe and Cloyd include the cultural and musical intermixing of klezmer and bluegrass on this album. I’m no musician, so I’d be the last one to ask HOW klezmer mixes with bluegrass, but I do know that it works. I could guess that it’s because both forms are rooted in traditional folkways, but sometimes you are better off skipping the analysis and just enjoying something for what it is.
All but two of the songs on the album were composed by Cloyd, with various cowriters including Zoe. Of the two they chose to cover “That Home Far Away” (Ruby Rakes) is a great bluegrass gospel romp, and “Now Is The Cool Of The Day” (Jean Ritchie) is a sweet a cappella gospel tune that really showcases their harmonies.
The original tunes on the album cover the spectrum, from klezmer to ballads to traditional bluegrass. It’s always hard to pick a favorite tune, and even harder to describe a band that someone else may not have even heard of. “Chestnut Mountain” is one song that stands out for me, a sweet bluegrass ballad of home and hard times that could have been written yesterday or a hundred years ago.
This may be a contemporary album, but the roots run deep!
If you appreciate fine songwriting, superb playing, and sweet harmonies, then Zoe and Cloyd deserve a place in your bluegrass collection. Give them a listen and you’ll be glad you did!