Title - The Triumph of Assimilation
Artist - Mark Rubin
For those unaware, like every good Jew, Mark Rubin looks for the humor in any situation he can.
But he has tired of being treated as an outsider in his own country, where his skin protects him from indignities non-whites suffer, but his DNA still marks him for hate.
And he has tired of not being taken seriously by people (including fellow Jews) who cannot fathom how the South-meets-West state of Oklahoma could spawn any Jews, much less a bluegrass-and-old-time-country-loving tuba and standup-bass virtuoso.
Especially one known for melding acoustic roots music and hardcore punk in the influential 90s group Bad Livers, playing polkas in dancehalls and honky-tonks across Texas with top Czech and Polish bands, and merging Klezmer and Romani music in the Other Europeans project.
So he is drawing a line in the sand or at least, the bayous surrounding New Orleans, his current home. Rubin says The Triumph of Assimilation (out June 1st, 2021 via his namesake Rubinchik Records), is meant to serve notice that conversations addressing discrimination and inclusion should involve Jews, too.
1. A Day of Revenge
2. Its Burning
3. Down South Kosher
4. The Murder of Leo Frank
5. Yiddish Banjo Suite
6. My Resting Place (featuring Danny Barnes, banjo)
7. Unnatural Disasters
8. Good Shabbes
9. Avinu Malkeinu
10. Spin the Dreidel
On an album that touches on Jewish and Yiddish culture in America, whilst at the same time being an astute look at the larger legacy of anti-Semitism found in the States, this remarkably profound album opens with the gently rambunctious A Day of Revenge and the banjo-driven tales told within Its Burning, and then we next get the foot-tapping polka groove of Down South Kosher, which in turn is backed by one of the more poignant, more revealingly expressive tracks, The Murder of Leo Frank (a track that shines a light on the shameful history of Leo Frank, a Jewish day laborer lynched in 1915 after being framed for the murder of young girl).
Up next within this album of musicality and evocativeness, which transcends even translation at times, is the artfully melodic Yiddish Banjo Suite which is followed by the flowery mid-tempo My Resting Place (featuring Danny Barnes on banjo), another foot-tapper in the form of Unnatural Disasters, the fun pop bounce of Good Shabbes, and then we get some of Rubins more earnestly felt nostalgia and melancholy within the highly emotive Avinu Malkeinu, the album closing, after a little introduction from Rubin himself, wishing us all a Happy Hanukkah, on the New Orleans-imbibed Spin the Dreidel.
I just want a place at the table with other disenfranchised groups now getting their voices heard, Rubin explains. I am hoping that this record can help create a safe place for American Jewish people to be Jewish, to be American, to be Southern and not have to explain themselves.
Rubin, who is built a solo show and Internet presence as Jew of Oklahoma, began to embrace his cultural identity more fully more than 20 years ago.
With Bad Livers about to break up, Rubin told a prominent bluegrass bandleader that he was planning a move from Austin, Texas, where the band had been based, to Nashville.
The bandleader pointed out that Nashville already had a Jewish bass player. Apparently, one was plenty for a town in which, Rubin was told, bassists get hired in church parking lots.
I have always thought of myself as a cross between Harlan Howard and Mordecai Gebirtig, Rubin adds, referencing the prolific Nashville songwriter and the beloved Polish poet who inspired two songs on the album.
With The Triumph of Assimilation, he declares, I am carving out the place where I am going to be comfortable. Playing this music is my goddamned birthright.
Listen to and Purchase Mark Rubins The Triumph of Assimilation on Bandcamp!
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