Are You Going to Scarborough Fair?
Because If You Are and You Need A Ride, The Kranzlers Are Driving

Being emotional is way uncool.

It’s why guys won’t cry in front of other guys. No male on the planet wants to be accused of getting in touch with his feminine side especially when there’s steak to eat and football games to watch. Why, being emotional is like being famous for crocheting (“hey, man. Great crocheting job. High five!”).These are some of the things you don’t have to be so public about. Sewing a yarmulka for your younger brother is one of them. Crying during Dawson’s Creek finale is another.

In fact, I’ll let you all in on a secret: men won’t agree to see a “tearjerker (an actual section in Blockbuster)” at a theater near you because they’re afraid the flick may move them. A movie theater full of strangers, some male and some female, and your eyes are moist without your permission. Our machismo tells us that we don’t want to be caught in public with our tear ducts down.

Moreover in this cold detached age of instant messaging (of which I am king), cell phones, online dating and emails, emotion has never felt more distant. It’s a sentiment of Mars-like reach. I have heard of relationships ending by way of email (“you’ve got dumped”). I have seen so many people roll their eyes in a mocking fashion so frequently that it is indeed the fashion, perhaps the new “air-quotes.” I hear of too many people dating for a very long time to then abruptly end it over no particular reason. “It just wasn’t there,” they say. Well, maybe—just-maybe—you “weren’t there.” But that’s another article…

Once in a while, though, something comes along and reminds us about our underused sensitivities, of their potency and beauty. For me, it was my father and his tendency to cry at every celebration. In case I had believed in the old adage that real men didn’t cry, my father served as a vibrant contradiction. Real men do cry. In fact, my father further proved, real men also shop for groceries and do the laundry.

Ravital and Elli Kranzler are also emotional people. After listening to Because You Are With Me, I have no choice but to believe that this is the case. Their new delicate album is so wrought with emotion, that it should come with a free candle so you can turn down the lights, invite some friends over, sit on the floor and talk about things like your feelings and how you sometimes have them. This is a wonderful and necessary thing. You put on a CD, listen to it and something happens. Something warm and sincere. These people actually believe in the sounds they are producing. That mandolin…that’s fo’ real, kid. Jewish music can rarely boast such an achievement (and despite what you think, your Titanic Soundtrack doesn’t rate as Jewish music even though your aunt, who only listens to Jewish music, owns it).

This brings me to the direction of my review. What I have attempted to do here is to write a review in real time. This means that as I listened to the album, I took down notes and typed my random thoughts. The following is more of a reactionary thought process than one constructed. Doesn’t it seem logical to judge an album recorded emotionally by responding emotionally? As the Webster dictionary states “emotion” is “an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, etc. is experienced as distinguished from cognitive states of consciousness.”

Well put. Now allow me to embark on my cognitive, yet distinguished, states of consciousness:

– A while back I referred to Elli Kranzler’s voice as “honey-glazed sweetness” (yes, I am being self-referential). His daughter Ravital’s, is that and a dozen Krispy Kremes. I’m certain if I had either one of their voices, Yerachmiel Begun would be knocking down my door. Oh, per chance to dream.

– According to the liner notes, son and brother, Yannai, plays harmonica on the first song. And he’s in the army, by the way. Yes, he plays the harmonica. And he shoots a gun defending his country. What can I do besides make a casarol? Sometimes I feel so little. Bonus: Yannai just got engaged (thank you, Isaac Galena for obsessively checking out

– This is by far the definitive Erev Shabbat album. It’s completely calming and soothing mood makes it the perfect transitional tool from maintaining a hectic work week to relaxing at the Shabbat table with a nice container of Chumus Solo (with chick peas, please).Although, being that I am usually running late, an album this tranquil could inspire further tardiness. (“I know it’s 12:30. But did I miss Kabalat Shabbat?”).

– Im Amarti (Song Six); a Short Play
Natalie Merchant to Ravital Kranzler: “Bring it.”
Ravital Kranzler to Natalie Merchant: “It’s already been brrrrrrou-wwwwt.” [Curtain closes]
The End

– I’ve always wanted to check out the Pottery Barn. You know, just to see what they sell.

– I remember when I was in camp, way back in the day, we used to put the campers to sleep and then meet up afterwards in the dining room to sing and have cake. We would sit around for hours recalling the music our parents listened to in the car, in the house. The Jewish music we all grew up with. We would hit the high notes, we would harmonize, we would laugh at one another for trying to hit the high notes and harmonizing. They were wonderful times. Times that truly define the potential beauty of Shabbat. I wish this album was around back then. We would’ve had at least another 55 minutes of songs to sing.

– It’s been rumored that Ravital would prefer not to sing before a live audience, which is a shame. Seeing these songs live could be a true spiritual experience. But then again, what do I know about spirituality…I went to YU (haha. Just kidding, President Joel. Honest).

– “Hamachadesh” exemplifies the stellar production on this album. It also demonstrates how you could make Jewish music sound a bit like a pensive Alanis Morrisette. No easy feat considering Alanis is Canadian and I’m told that they don’t even know what “pensive” means.

– On the second to last song “Ahavti,” when Elli writes in the liner notes: “Did you ever sing your heart out and realize, “I found it! I found my voice!” he is in no way shape or form encouraging the guy who sits behind me in shul to sing along with the Chazan. Because he has a really bad voice.

– Being emotional is exhausting. Definitely not as easy as they make it looks like on daytime TV.

– I’m thinking of renting “Beaches.” Talk me out of it.

My emotional musings, it appears, are actually not so distinguished. Upon first glance of the above, I notice that this experiment does not do justice to the sound of this album for a number of reason: A) because I have this weird compulsive habit of making wisecracks in music reviews which tends to complicate a serious review revolved around emotion. B) If I had reflected the true nature of the album in this review, we would be in tears and this would turn into a very special Oprah episode about weight loss or single motherhood. And finally, C) the Kranzlers’ respective voices are so angelic that the Seraphim in heaven are collectively wondering “what’s up with that?” as they overhear the new record.

I was thinking in context to Because… that Elvis Costello once said writing about music is like dancing about architecture. As a general rule, I think he’s wrong. Look, I write about music all the time–I don’t seem to have the problem doing it. But, paradoxically, Because You Are With Me comes to Costello’s defense; I could elaborate on the Kranzler experience with every colorful word I could muster–words, for example, like “colorful”–but in the end, you would still need to hear it yourself. Elli and Ravital are aiming for your emotions, they want to inspire your feelings. They want you to get in touch with yourself like Dr. Phil could never imagine. Find your voice, they provoke. See a side of yourself that you don’t usually have the time for. Give your emotions the proper catalyst. This is that catalyst. Use it. Listen to it.

Now excuse me while I end here. I am this close to finishing the crocheting of this yarmulka…


To read more from Arye Dworken, check out his new personal website