ALBUM REVIEW: Zoe & Cloyd Honor Their Heritage & Culture On ‘Songs Of Our Grandfathers’

North Carolina husband and wife duo Zoe & Cloyd are bringing the lesser known world of Klezgrass music to life.

Though you may not have heard of it, this unique name is the best way to sum up the musical stylings of this Americana/bluegrass duo. 

John Cloyd Miller and Natalya Zoe Weinstein pay homage to their impressively canorous lineage with their latest album, aptly titled, Songs of Our Grandfathers. Inspired by Andy Statman and David Grisman’s 1995 Jewish and klezmer music album, Songs of Our Fathers, the duo crafted their own 11-song collection with the similar intent to showcase and honor the cultural and musical traditions of their relatives. 

Weinstein’s grandfather, David Weinstein, was a Jewish klezmer musician and an immigrant from Ukraine. Miller’s grandfather, Jim Shumate, was a bluegrass fiddler from North Carolina. Though both men hailed from vastly different areas of the world, their music continues to foster connections even decades later. 

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“We’ll Meet Again Sweetheart”

Four songs feature celebrated bluegrass mandolinist and klezmer clarinetist, Andy Statman, whose artistic range encapsulates both ends of the album’s spectrum. His expertise with both instruments lent itself to the album’s production. Similarly, banjo player Bennett Sullivan and bassist Kevin Kehrberg make appearances in several numbers. The album was released via Organic Records on May 19th. 

Opening with a flourishing bluegrass bang, “We’ll Meet Again Sweetheart,” pairs rather somber lyrics with jaunty instrumentals. In this number, Weinstein plays the exact fiddle used by Shumate in his Flatt & Scruggs recording from 1948. 

Paying direct tribute to Miller’s grandfather, the duo added Shumate’s original tune, “Up and At ‘Em,” a rollicking bluegrass anthem that begins with a dramatic if not spooky introduction. Starting slowly and gently, the melody eases the listener in, until a short pause marks the song’s upbeat transformation.

“Up and At ‘Em”

“Klezmer Clave Melody” is another hauntingly beautiful tune whose melody twists and turns, rises and falls, assembling complex layers of klezmer and bluegrass instrumentals. Though these two lack lyrics, both tunes showcase the duo’s inherent instrumental mastery. 

Closing track “Misirlou” and “Bei Mir Bitsu Sheyn” were originally popularized in the 1930s amidst the New York Yiddish music scene, but of course most will recognize the previous as a Dick Dale 1962 classic. Zoe & Cloyd bring new life to these classical songs, celebrating the traditional style of Jewish music with the addition of some complementary bluegrass flair. 

Founding members of the roots trio Red June, Weinstein and Miller are no strangers to the Asheville music scene. Though they built a following regionally and nationally with the trio, when their daughter was born in 2015, the two made the transition to Zoe & Cloyd.

Songs of Our Grandfathers is the duo’s fifth studio album, and the two recently made their debut in Northern Ireland on May 26th-28th, continuing their grandfathers’ legacies – of which both would be incredibly proud.  

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