On their recently released debut LP Sterling, New York City-based Americana duo Joanie & Matt (Joanie Leeds and Matthew Check) adapt ancient texts from the Hebrew Bible for a powerful collection of songs.
Matthew Check, an original member of the group Gangstagrass (who performed the theme song for the FX series Justified) says the duo's song "The One Above" draws upon Nazarite law.
"When the Israelites are in the desert, there is a group called the Nasarites, who dedicated themselves to God for various reasons. The way you dedicate yourself is by not cutting your hair or drinking wine or come in contact with dead bodies. There are a couple other laws but those are themost famous ones," Check tells Wide Open Country. "One of the other themes emerging these days that's no longer taboo is when people talk about their sobriety and how they're trying to figure out their lives in terms of addictions. The classic substance of humanity is alcohol. So, I found it interesting how they would separate themselves from alcohol when alcohol is such an important part of Jewish tradition. This is a version of what we call 'musical midrash.' I thought, 'What if on a sociological level, the Nasarite laws came into existence because Moses realized there were a bunch of alcoholics.' [laughs] Maybe there was this understanding that there were people who just couldn't handle their substances. Whatever the real backstory that isn't understood in the context of history, that's where the seed was planted."
Watch the video for "The One Above" below.
Joanie & Matt previously released Challah, Challah, a bluegrass children's album.
For more information on Joanie & Matt, visit their official website.
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