By Lisa Snedeker
If you are attending this week’s International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA)’s World of Bluegrass conference and festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, you hopefully have a chance to catch one of Zoe & Cloyd‘s many sets as one the event’s Official Showcase Artists.
The duo — Western North Carolina natives Natalya Zoe Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller — have been on my radar since I discovered them at MerleFest. Fans of the former Americana trio Red June will recognize the Appalachian roots husband and wife duo that made up two-thirds of that group.
I continue to be particularly impressed by the fiddle stylings of Weinstein and the guitar and banjo talents of Miller as well as their gorgeous harmonies. Their traditional approach to their music take you back to an earlier era. If you like Mandolin Orange, you’ll like Zoe & Cloyd.
Based in Asheville, the couple have been making music together in various arrangements since first meeting in 2005.
I had a chance to chat briefly with Weinstein after the band’s set at Social Architect on Wednesday night and she said they were really excited to be featured again as IBMA Official Showcase Artists, an honor they haven’t enjoyed since 2016. In addition to performing during the week at the business conference you can find them playing at the free WOB StreetFest on Friday and Saturday in downtown Raleigh.
“This week is always a highlight of our year, and we are really looking forward to catching up with folks and hearing lots of great music,” Weinstein said.
At the end of their toe-tapping inducing performance, they rolled out a new tune, “Only Game In Town,” which lead Weinsteinto joke with the audience that during IBMA at least, this was NOT the case.
According to the band’s e-newsletter, “Produced by bluegrass stalwart and songwriter extraordinaire, Jon Weisberger, the new record features eight original tunes and three traditional cuts, performed with two of the finest musicians we know — Kevin Kehrberg on bass and Bennett Sullivan on banjo and guitar. You can pre-order and pre-save the album now at this link. We are so excited to share it with you!”
Upcoming regional CD release shows include:
From Organic Records:
Eclecticism and variety are highly valued in today’s roots music scene, and musicians try to embody these qualities with honesty and authenticity. That comes naturally to Western North Carolina’s Zoe & Cloyd, whose third album, I Am Your Neighbor, will be released September 27 from Organic Records. Drawing on deep family and musical roots, the duo — Natalya Zoe Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller — have crafted a collection that moves effortlessly from authentic old-time sounds and pointed, heartfelt originals to startling, yet seamless blends of styles as diverse as bluegrass and klezmer.
Whether they’re tackling the traditional gospel of “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down,” the incisive commentary of their first single, Miller’s biting — and strictly bluegrass — environmental anthem, “Looking Out For You And Me,” or the sophisticated lope of the klezmer-flavored original instrumental, “Zisa Meydele,” Zoe & Cloyd bring together respect for tradition and bold, progressive attitudes in a combination that’s uniquely theirs.
“I Am Your Neighbor is an album that delves into themes of connection and responsibility to each other and the planet,” says Miller. “While addressing pressing concerns such as climate change, the album also explores the myriad of complexities of interpersonal relationships. Add in a dose of klezmer and other traditional music, and you have a record that celebrates our roots while pushing the envelope of New Appalachian songwriting.”
“Zoe & Cloyd’s love for the musical legacies they’ve inherited comes through in their impeccable mastery of them,” producer Jon Weisberger adds. “But they’re not afraid to bring them forward, either, and their sense of when and how to blend them in new and distinctive ways is one of their greatest musical strengths.”
With the help of thoughtful and spirited support from bassist Kevin Kehrberg and banjo player/guitarist Bennett Sullivan, the duo offer beautifully matched harmonies and strong, inventive musicianship in a compelling variety of material and arrangements. There’s the classic wry bluegrass humor of “Only Game In Town,” the traditional lament of “Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still,” a frank exploration of relationship tensions in the folk-flavored “Build Me Up,” an impassioned plea for the planet in “Rising Waters,” the acknowledgement of common humanity in the title track, that klezmer-bluegrass instrumental mash-up, “Berditchever Sher,” and much more.
With the release of their first three singles from the new collection — “Looking Out For You And Me,” “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” and “Berditchever Sher” — Zoe & Cloyd served notice that eclecticism, fidelity to tradition, themes of social engagement and more can stand side by side in one body of work. Now, with the release of I Am Your Neighbor, they reveal that, with the right talents, an even greater variety can be woven into one harmonious whole.