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When it comes to diversity, Zoe + Cloyd are all good

Club Passim, Cambridge, Mass., July 14, 2022

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

Don't try to pigeon hole Zoe + Cloyd musically. That was apparent from the start of the engaging, diverse set when they leaned into "Zisa Meydele (Sweet Little Girl)."

It's a mid-tempo klezmer tune featuring Natalya Zoe Weinstein on fiddle and her husband and musical partner John Cloyd Miller on acoustic guitar. Weinstein's subtle playing drove the song, which they wrote.

Klezmer music was only one part of the musical potpourri. Throw in bluegrass, country and acoustic music to the mix, and that pretty much described one would hear at any given moment during the 80-minute gig.

Zoe + Cloyd proved to be adept at any given style giving a lot of deserved attention to their recent, excellent release "Rebuild." They went back to klezmer songs a few more times with the lovely and lyrical "Berditchever Sher" and later with "Hoffman's Horan/David's Frailach." Weinstein comes to klezmer music naturally as she pointed out that her grandfather was a professional musician from Kiev, Ukraine.

Miller's background was in the other styles offered, but he had family ties as well, playing his grandfather's "Up and At Em," a quick-paced song that banjo player Bennett Sullivan excelled on.

Miller clearly is the stronger vocalist of the two and handles most of the leads. Billy Strings is a reference point for Miller (if you didn't know any better, you might have thought Strings was singing "Everything But Me") perhaps not quite as raucous, but Miller provides an engaging vocal backbone to the duo.

Miller went more traditional with Bill Monroe's "Rocky Road Blues" with lots of sharp banjo from Sullivan.

Much respect was due to Sullivan as well for a solo acoustic guitar reading of his "My Ecko." He introduced the song about his son who was born exactly one year ago. But the joy of a one-year-old's birthday dissipated. Sadly, his son died five days later. To say that this was heartfelt and emotional would be an understatement with lines like "we held hands until his last breath."

Credit also was due Zoe + Cloyd for trying to come to terms with the difficult times we live in on "Where Do You Stand," trying to find a middle ground.

About the only downside to the show as the paltry crowd of about 20 people. That certainly was no indication of the musical quality of Zoe + Cloyd.

No matter the style they covered, Zoe + Cloyd were all good.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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