Daniel Kahn’s newest addition and now fifth full-length in the Painted Bird’s catalog, “the Butcher’s Share” boasts meticulously well-crafted folk tunes that are strongly supported by a well-seasoned ensemble. Possessing a melodic flare that is both unique in its style and instrumentation, Kahn’s latest album contains just the right combination of exploring his old stomping grounds of previous releases such as, “Partisans & Parasites” and, “Lost Causes” while still investigating plenty of fresh new territory.
The group is still firmly rooted in Klezmer and Eastern European folk, coupled with bursts of punk-like energy that is irresistible to fans old and new. Perhaps the best example of this lies within, “The Butcher’s Sher” with its intense use of dynamics and aggressive vocal delivery. Yet what lies at the core of, “The Butcher’s Share” is the showcase of a powerful and resourceful songwriter. Be it an original work such as, “Freedom Is A Verb” with its sensational hook and sizzling saxophone or the revival of a lost Dovid Edelshtat gem like, “Arbeter Froyen - Working Women” (an uplifting waltz featuring the gorgeous guest-vocals of Sasha Lurje, Lorin Sklamberg, Sarah Gordon, Sveta Kundish, & Patrick Farrell) Kahn consistently builds and revives music for the modern generation.
Small doses of déjà vu can be found in thrilling numbers like, “99% - Nayn-Un-Nayntsik” complete with marching snare-rolls that are reminiscent of, “March of the Jobless Corps” & there is a familiar melancholic quality in, “Children In The Woods” that rekindles a Tom Waits-esque vibe not dissimilar to that of, “Sunday After the War”. It should be emphasized that none of the songs feel redundant of previous efforts, but simply share certain properties; the most prominent of which lies within Kahn’s trademark accordion, Christian Dawid’s clarinet & saxophone work, & the rhythmic expertise of Hampus Melin on drums/percussion with Michael Tuttle on bass.
Yiddish & English are contained in equal measures throughout, “The Butcher’s Share”. During the course of the album, one can’t help but feel as if they’ve dug up the floor boards only to have discovered a chest of hidden poetic gems. Whether it’s the travels detailed in, “The Ballad of How the Jews Got To Europe” or the purple bruised sky in, “Children In the Woods”— the thematic elements of the record never stall.
Thought-provoking and politically-fueled lyrics are not uncommon in the Painted Bird’s records. For instance, this brief moment within, “The Butcher’s Sher” illustrates this well with, “Now you don’t have to rally round a flag. You may as well salute a dirty rag”— as well as the lines of this verse from, “99% - Nayn-Un-Nayntsik”, declaring, “Don’t make your home a slot machine. Don’t turn your town into a bank” later followed in the chorus by, “Ninety-Nine is a community, one percent is a fuck-you-nity” demonstrating that much of the album feels so relevant in our current landscape.
If a newcomer were to walk the trail of Kahn’s latest offering, they would be starting at what just might be a creative milestone in the growing discography of a productive and extraordinary artist. Whether you’re just getting your feet wet with this release, or already a fan and craving more of the Painted Bird’s material, “The Butcher’s Share” just might be the most unique folk record of 2017.
*NOTE: I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Kahn for the, “Holidays In the Sun Podcast” which you can stream here: https://soundcloud.com/user-312554051/episode-2-feauting-special-guests-...