Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Klezmatics: Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukah [JMG, 2006]
Lorin Sklamberg and his wondrous band found only eight Hanukkah lyrics by the Scotch-Irish Okie, who got interested in the subject while raising a family with his Jewish wife, and most of them were in Guthrie's silliest kiddie style: "Honeyky Hanuka" is a typical title, "Dinga lingle lingle, I ring your bell" a resonant line. And from this they create as upful a holiday album as I can recall. Sklamberg's tenor is a treasure of American music, adding wit and warmth to predominantly Yiddish-style melodies as bright as any Guthrie ever stole or created. They spritz up "Happy Joyous Hanuka" with hoedown fiddle, gospel bass and country licks, and later on leave room for, why not, Jew's harp. And to get to 12 tracks, they add four instrumentals. Can't pin down the R&B novelty Frank London raided for "(Do the) Latke Flip-Flop." Maybe we'll figure it out at Christmas dinner. A