Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
he two words heard the most during Nefesh Mountain's show were appropriately "love" and "light." That's no surprise perhaps given that the tour is labelled the "Love & Light Tour."
It was as if the husband-wife duo of Doni Zasloff and Eric Lindberg wanted to emphasize the positives in this world during these admittedly dark times. The fact of the matter was that the Jewish duo playing bluegrass and Americana music did not shy away either light or dark during their well-constructed, emotional 90-minute show before a sold-out crowd.
Zasloff and Lindberg made it clear through high personal songs and in their comments that the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel has loomed very large in their lives with music as somewhat of a refuge as a result.
The Tim O'Brien/Darrell Scott song "More Love" with the audience singing along to the title underscored that sentiment with Zasloff singing "If there's ever an answer, it's more love" with the lyrical violin of Ben Plotnick behind her. The song also mentions the plight of war.
And the closing song of the set, "Revival" from the Allman Brothers Band, also focused on being upbeat with the lead lines "People can you feel it?/Love is everywhere."
Both songs are on a mainly covers EP coming out in February 2024. One wouldn't normally think the Allmans would be musical terra firma for Nefesh Mountain, but they easily managed to pull off the harder-edge, uptempo song that had the crowd standing and dancing.
Zasloff, who sometimes sang in Hebrew, and Lindberg split lead vocal chores with both effective in that role. Lindberg was adept as well on the musical end with stints on banjo and acoustic and electric guitars.
There were lighter moments during the night with a few Channukah songs in the mix, including Woody Guthrie's buoyant, joyous "Hannukah Dance" with Zasloff taking lead vocals. Lindberg joked that it was okay to sing Channukah songs post-Channukah if it was okay to sing Christmas songs starting after Halloween.
Lindstrom played some sharp lead slide guitar on a very cool instrumental version of the traditional Channukah song "Maoz Tzur" that doubtless no one ever heard quite this way before.
The backing players changed from last year's visit, but the playing was strong from the quartet, especially Plotnick, who received a lot of face time – deservedly so, and sharp-picking and ultra-serious looking mandolinist Korey Brodsky of bluegrass band Mile Twelve.
Still, the terror of Oct. 7 when the Hamas attack occurred and anti-Semitism in the world cast a giant shadow on the night in numerous comments and the obvious outward emotion of Zasloff.
This potentially could have been a real downer of an evening, but with Zasloff and Lindberg, there was a feeling purveyed that better days lay ahead. That was made evident no more so by their song "Piece of tthe Sun (for Anne Frank)," inspired by their then three-year-old daughter, Millie, who told Zasloff during a car ride one time that everyone had a "piece of the sun" in them. Fast-paced, Zasloff sings of the book her mother gave her ("The Diary of Anne Frank") along with its hopefulness.
Like Frank, through thick and thin, darkness and light, Nefesh Mountain ultimately looked ahead on this night to a world of love in a powerful night of the magic of music.