Nefesh Mountain— Spirituality through Jewish Bluegrass

by | Feb 16, 2018 | What’s Happening

Let the skies rejoice and sing a new song
Let the earth dance with glee
Let the oceans give a mighty roar
So their praise will echo through the tree
— Psalm 96:11, from A Mighty Roar,
track 3 in Beneath the Open Sky CD

What do you get when you mix the Tanakh’s 96th Psalm with banjo, fiddle, bass, mandolin and the clear mountain vocals of one of the hottest husband and wife duos in contemporary Jewish American music? The answer is Nefesh Mountain bluegrass band bringing their national “Beneath the Open Sky” tour to Tidewater.

On March 2, Doni Zasloff and Eric Lindberg release Beneath The Open Sky, their second full-length album after their critically-acclaimed self-titled debut, Nefesh Mountain. The recording was a hands-on undertaking for the couple, writing or arranging all 11 songs, and co-producing the entire project from start to finish. They recorded it with the instrumental backing of Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Tony Trischka and David Grier, aided by Nefesh Mountain’s touring band members, Alan Grubner on fiddle and Tim Kiah on bass. A dazzling picker in his own right, Lindberg provides lead guitar and banjo throughout, while Zasloff soars with some of the most melodic, incisive and soul-stirring vocals heard since Mary Travers first took the spotlight.

Using original material, along with four tracks drawing from the folk and old time traditions, Lindberg and Zasloff create a beautiful arc in Beneath The Open Sky. Their message is clear from the album’s opening track and rousing call for universal equality Bound For The Promised Land, to the closing of their haunting rendition of Irving Berlin’s Russian Lullaby. Throughout these songs, you can hear the foundational similarities between bluegrass and Jewish traditions, notably the lure of home, the love of nature and the comforts of a like-minded community. Jerusalem Ridge, Rocky Top, Flint Hill and Nefesh Mountain are clearly parts of the same eternal chain.

Ohef Sholom Temple, the Simon Family Jewish Community Center’s cultural arts and Jewish Life and Learning departments, as well as PJ Library, are presenting a weekend of Nefesh Mountain events.

Community Shabbaton*
Friday, March 9–Sunday, March 11
Ohef Sholom Temple
530 Raleigh Ave., Norfolk

Friday, March 9 Shabbat for Everyone
5:45 pm Family Friendly Bluegrass
Kabbalat Shabbat
6:30 pm Community dinner and teen social, $10, < age 13 no charge, RSVP required
7:15 pm Encore Children’s Concert with Mama Doni

Saturday, March 10
10:30–11:30 am Shabbat Morning musical worship with Nefesh Mountain, Cantor Jen
11:30 am–1:30 pm Spirituality through Bluegrass workshop and free
Mediterranean lunch, RSVP required
7 pm Concert at O’Connor brewing, Ghent

Sunday, March 11
11 am Wiggles & Giggles with Mama Doni, for infants, toddlers, and parents
12:45 pm Teacher Training—Music and spiritual education, $25 RSVP required

RSVP by March 7 to select events at

*Made possible in part by a grant from the Tidewater Jewish Foundation, and co-sponsored by Ohef Sholom Temple and United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

– Chris Kraus