Zoe and Cloyd - I Am Your Neighbor
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I Am Your Neighbor (Organic, 2019)

Zoe and Cloyd

Reviewed by Jeff Lincoln

Married musicians, if they can already sing individually, tend to make wonderful harmonies together. There's something about the familiarity and safety of two people in love that promote pitches that mesh. Zoe and Cloyd show this off terrifically. Gathering a solid following in their home base around Asheville, N.C., the duo has carved out a space for themselves in a crowded Americana scene.

Part of this is the infusion of fiddler Natalya Zoe Weinstein's heritage from greater Ukraine. There's a Jewish traditional music of Klezmer - a kind of Eastern European swing -- that Weinstein's father mastered. While there are no orchestras with bouncing clarinets on this record, there are two acoustic instrumentals that celebrate Klezmer flavor - the traditional "Berditchever Sher" might send you spiraling around your living room. "Zisa Meydele," an original instrumental, shows off high drama with just four players - is that a violin or a mandolin being frenetically plucked? Sounds like both!

The balance of the record exhibits a good bit of John Cloyd Miller's stringed instrument prowess, along with songwriting. The duo still knows when to bring in something they didn't pen that can help - "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down" was found in one of those regional field recordings in Appalachia. Thick banjo and fiddle tradeoffs make for a real treat.

Miller's voice hearkens to Lonestar's Richie McDonald, certainly a good thing. And the writing is a unique take on life - it's interested in a lot more than just love songs, with themes about safekeeping people's best and common interests. That may suggest political tirade, but there's no named party affiliation here. Songs like "Looking Out For You and Me" throw down the gauntlet of care to all politicians. And the title track might even send a charge right at the listener. This duo may have the special synchronicity of a wedded pair, but they remind us that we're all in this together.

CDs by Zoe and Cloyd

Songs of Our Grandfathers, 2023 I Am Your Neighbor, 2019 Eyes Brand New, 2017

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