Beyond the Pale Routes

It should come as no surprise that the current penchant for all things twang should eventually infect klezmer, but what might be surprising is that Beyond the Pale are a Toronto band. Much of their rootsy sound originates with Eric Stein's mandolin and tsimbl (Jewish hammered dulcimer) and Anne Lindsay, who plays the most down-home violin you're likely to encounter on a klezmer record. An earlier incarnation as a bluegrass fusion ensemble is most apparent from songs such as the opening "Eavesdropping/Icebreaker" and the jazz-inflected "Gyration." Their eclectic tastes are in evidence on the reggae-inspired "ChasenJah," a reworking of three traditional wedding dances that includes melodic traces of "St. James' Infirmary." Ultimately, your taste for this record will depend entirely on how much accordion you can tolerate in a klezmer context. As my own threshold is low, I longed for more songs like the original composition "Bulcharescu" with its subtle upright bass and mandolin, and seductive time signature. Beyond the Pale might benefit by straying further from interpreting traditional tunes, and continuing further along their laid-back experimental path. (Borealis)