Mark Rubin – Jew of Oklahoma – The Triumph of Assimilation
Co-founder of the 90s roots-punk band Bad Livers, Mark Rubin injects a little humor into his attempt to jump on the disenfranchised bandwagon (which just about every ethnicity is entitled to), & if it isn’t ethnicity, maybe heritage, culture, religion, or where you come from. You’re from New York? What are you doing here?
This is where human logic evaporates because prejudices exist everywhere in different doses. Maybe you’re not wearing the right sneakers, still smoke cigarettes, or today, whether you’re wearing a mask or not.
Rubin plays polkas, dancehalls, honky-tonks & effectively applies his talent to Tex-Mex, Czech, Polish tunes, merging Klezmer & Romani-gypsy flavors to his repertoire. He draws a line in the sand to address discrimination that should involve as well, Jewish people.
The Triumph of Assimilation (Drops June 1–Rubinchik Recordings) provides a well-planned showcase with slicing vocals that finds its place as aggressive as any Woody Guthrie labor song. It’s a broad folk-tradition collection. Rubin does not seek to challenge just take his righteous place alongside other people who seem to sing loud about their own issues. Lots of clever Jewish words thrown in for lyrical effect – I wonder if Bob Dylan would dare cover one? I know Phil Ochs or Kinky Friedman would.
I like music. I don’t care how it’s applied so long as it tells me something with a good melody or groove. Jews often tell good stories (listen to Myron Cohen). Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan – all recorded Christmas CDs. Not their holiday is it? So what? Some of the best Christmas songs were either sung or written by Jewish people. Maybe if Rubin sings too Jewish certain parts of his audience won’t relate. But he’s careful & this resonates easily. As a good blues song or jazz melody does.
“My Resting Place,” is deep. It’s a song that actually commemorates the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in NYC in 1911. I’m proud of Rubin for doing such a song based on a work by Yiddish poet laureate Morris Rosenfeld. The song, with Danny Barnes on banjo, has Rubin’s strong mature assertive vocals. Nothing hokey or controversial. Good song, with the quality of a Bob Dylan.
“Unnatural Disasters,” is superb with its Mavericks/Los Lobos feel in a sarcastic frame. This may not get any radio play, but this is an enthusiastic showcase. You don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate the musical journey this 10-cut collection affords.
The band is Mark (guitar/banjo/string & electric bass/mandolin/tuba/banjo guitar/percussion/vocals); Danny Barnes (banjo); Dylan Blackthorne (accordion); Mark Hays (drums); Rabbi Neil Blumofe with the Panorama Jazz Band: Ben Schenck (clarinet/gang vocal); Aurora Nealand (alto sax/gang vocal); Colin Meyers (trombone/gang vocal); Michael Ward-Bergeman (accordion/gang vocal); Matt Perrine (Sousaphone) & Doug Garrison (drums).
The 30-minute CD: Available at https://www.jewofoklahoma.com/