NATHAN SALSBURG’s PSALMS is perhaps the most personal work of the Kentucky guitarist, singer, songwriter and archivist’s career, so we’ll let him tell you about it. Buy it HERE.
“Psalms is a collection of new arrangements of Hebrew psalms—Tehillim—composed between 2016 to 2019, ” Nathan writes, “and recorded in their entirety, somehow, over the long course of 2020. The project was born of a desire for some kind of rigorous and creative Jewish engagement, which came to take shape in the irregular practice of opening a bilingual Book of Psalms at random, scanning the English (I don’t speak and can only haltingly read Hebrew) of a particular chapter for passages that resonated conceptually and emotionally, and scanned rhythmically. Copying those selections over to a separate page, I worked to thread them into new melodies with the ultimate intention of making them satisfactorily singable. The nine fragments of discrete psalms that comprise this record were those I regarded as the most successful efforts, by which I mean most pleasing to sing and to play. May listeners find them similarly pleasing to listen to, and perhaps even to sing and play themselves.”
“My formative experiences with Jewish music were collective and participatory, at synagogue and summer camp in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, where the repertoire was heavy with ‘American nusach.’ Played on acoustic guitars, combining liturgical Hebrew with contemporary English translations and Israeli folk-song lyrics, it was meant to be sung with maximum physical investment (jumping, shouting, dancing, swaying) for maximum emotional return, which it absolutely delivered. Its earnestness was its cardinal virtue, as it provided an experience of catharsis similarly guileless and really quite liberating for the young Upper Southern/Midwestern Jew I was. It was not, however, music that I could carry into adulthood—I was too old for summer camp; I stopped attending synagogue with any regularity; I sought more than unadulterated emotionalism. I became drawn, then, to Jewish music in which I was incapable of participating: in time, klezmer and cantorial performances on 78-rpm records; in space, the devotional traditions of Sephardic and Mizrahi communities.”
“So when I heard Dark’cho, David Asher Brook and Jonathan Harkham’s 2004 album of traditional Chasidic melodies and liturgical pieces, I was smitten by it and brought it in close. It was delicate, intentional music, made by sensibilities I felt in tune with. It was sung quietly and played sparely on instruments I might have chosen. Its spirit was of private meditation as opposed to collective ecstasy; its sound more of seeking than of finding. It was the stuff of aspiration, and it served as a guide to the practice from which Psalms emerged.”
“Despite the solitary genesis of the pieces on this record, I both couldn’t and wouldn’t have made it alone. The contributors, near and far, came to feel like a kind of creative chavurah—a collaborative fellowship that imbued the songs with a vitality of which a sole agent would be incapable. I am particularly grateful to dear friend and colleague James Elkington, who agreed to devise the arrangements and help wrangle and guide the performers, and to Noa Babayof, who offered crucial support: melodic and pronunciative. Any and all errors, however, are mine alone.”
As Nathan digs into the roots of his faith, his frequent collaborator JOAN SHELLEY is looking to her past with two reissues of her albums ELECTRIC URSA (on purple vinyl LP) and GINKO (on sea-green vinyl LP).
ELECTRIC URSA (Buy it HERE)
Joan Shelley’s out of print 2014 album is repackaged here in a deluxe tip-on jacket. Electric Ursa was recorded out of the spotlight in Louisville, Kentucky. A quiet, 8 song record which owes much to the post-rock history of its hometown on songs like “Something Small” and “Rising Air”, while “River Low” and “Electric Ursa” hint at the brilliant Over and Even waiting just around the corner. Electric Ursa brought Shelley to the national stage. Rolling Stone noted that the songs project “a huge, resplendently pained serenity” while Pitchfork declared that while the album “isn’t [her] debut, it is her absolute arrival.”
GINKO (Buy it HERE)
The debut album by Joan Shelley pressed on vinyl for the first time. Originally released in 2012 and long-elusive to fans, Ginko is the starting point for Shelley, now revered for her songwriting, “dazzling poetic imagery” (The Guardian) and “radiant sense of calm” (NPR Music). Standout tracks “By The Ohio” and “Siren” show what is to come, while “Sure As Night” was her first collaboration with Nathan Salsburg.
All three releases are in-stock NOW at Horizon Records and in our webstore, along with these other gems from Nathan and Joan!