Concert Review: Tim Sparks and Noah Lubin at the Boston Jewish Music Festival (3/5/2013)

On Tuesday I went to see a concert that was part of the Boston Jewish Music Festival. Tim Sparks and Noah Lubin were playing at Passim’s in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Passim’s is a small and very intimate basement venue with a capacity just over 100. They primarily focus on folk music, but they aren’t too strict about genre. It’s a room with a lot of history – it’s been in its current location for 50 years, and legends like Bob Dylan and Tom Waits played shows there early in their careers.

I have a couple of Tim Sparks’ albums, but I had never seen him perform live; I was excited that he was playing a gig so close to home, and bought tickets as soon as they went on sale, landing me a spot in the front row.

I hadn’t heard of Noah Lubin before, so I was interested to see what kind of music he would play with his band. It turned out to be laid-back bluesy roots music with Bible-themed lyrics. While my tastes tend to run more to music that grabs you by the throat and shakes you around a little, I did enjoy his set a lot. It happened to be a day where I really needed to relax a little and it was very nice to kick back with a drink and watch Lubin’s set. You can listen here to a song from his most recent album:

Tim Sparks was up next, and his set was quite different from Mr. Lubin’s. He played a steel-string acoustic guitar and coaxed a really nice tone out of it. He told us about being asked by John Zorn to contribute to Tzadik Records’ Radical Jewish Culture series, and joked that it was especially radical for him to contribute, because he’s not Jewish! But of course music is not genetic, and Mr. Sparks has made some beautiful albums of Jewish music for Tzadik, including a lot of tunes by both John Zorn and Naftule Brandwein, two people who have been extremely influential on the genre in very different ways.

I filmed one of the most beautiful solo pieces he played:

I was thoroughly impressed with Tim Sparks’ set, every piece he played was excellent and beautifully performed.

At the end of his set, Mr. Sparks asked (more…)