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Yair Yona - Remember

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Artist: Yair Yona

Album: Remember

Label: Strange Attractors Audio House

Review date: Aug. 25, 2010

While guitarist Yair Yona was first lured into the world of acoustic fingerpicking by a Bert Jansch CD that he found in a London shop, the Takoma school is his foundation. Like Steffen Basho-Junghans, he’s embraced this fundamentally American style on its own terms, learned its language inside out, and still made music that’s true to an upbringing on the far side of the Greenwich Meridian.

The gamboling “Struggled So Hard” is so steeped in country blues that you’d best lock your car doors if you play it whilst driving through a crossroads; the devil’s going to want to collect on those stolen licks. “Sympathy For The Jack” is a fairly blatant rewrite of Jack Rose’s “Kensington Blues,” but it transcends retread status by staying truer to the parent tune’s jubilant spirit than its melody. It also bears mentioning that the piece was written and recorded while Rose was alive; this album first came out in miniscule numbers on the Anova label last year.

As the preposterously lengthy title “Floodgate Opens to Allow a Ship to Come Through (As It Carries The Passenger Fahey On It)” suggests and the dancing, propulsive picking throughout confirms, he self-consciously frames his music within the American Primitive tradition. And yet, that tune also shows how the individuality of Yonat’s synthesis by using synths and electric guitars to thicken the textures in ways that Fahey never indulged.

Coming up on age 30 and born and raised in Israel, his reference points include American indie rock and Eastern European folk, and both get play here. The plugged-in, unabashedly epic elements of “Floodgate…” lift what’s good from the framework of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s epic and leave out the soapbox haranguing. And “Russian Dance,” with its not-quite-dry-eyed accordion and lilting mandolin, could probably get him repeat bookings at a Slavic exile’s café.

This is a solid debut, but I’d like to hear Yona get further past his influences and, like Basho-Junghans, into a sound that is completely his own.

By Bill Meyer

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