The Josh Nelson Project
From the first bars of this CD, released by
The opening track, “Yih’yu L’ratzon”, often set in worship as a quiet meditation, breaks rank with that tradition and offers a driving, pulsing tight rock mantra for listeners that whets my appetite for this whole album. What is apparent from the first 20 seconds into this CD is that Josh has created Jewish music that doesn’t apologize or separate itself from the rest of the music on your iPod, just as messages of Torah should walk with us outside of a worship setting and infuse the everyday moments of our lives with meaning. Josh gives us a beautiful soundtrack to do this.
His anthem, “Hava Nashira”, is the vital, vibrant mantra of a new generation of Jews, whose spirit is magnified in youth groups and summer camp experiences to feel the bass guitar and kickdrum heartbeat of Judaism in Josh’s music. It is unapologetic, celebratory and unbridled, perfectly Jewish, but unlike any worship or synagogue experience that your parents ever dragged you to. It is Jewish music, reinvented, with the throttle pressed into overdrive.
Some of the music here is reflective. “I” is a heartfelt ballad which exposes Josh’s versatility in both songwriting and performing. He is able to reach directly into each of us with songs like these, and he finds and pulls at our spirit, inviting us to join him in his moment of sadness. “L’dor Vador” similarly draws us together as Jews, chain-linked by “words…stories… pictures of the past” to generations before us. In our music worship community (shirhamakom.com) in CT, we use this powerful song as a prelude to the mourner’s kaddish, remembering those who came before us.
Josh is one of the few people who tirelessly hand delivers this music to his global audience. He has performed at over 1000 concert venues including URJ Biennials, CAJE and Limmud, spreading his rock Judaism to tens of thousands of attendees.
I have to admit that I’ve heard Josh perform in concert many times, and it is difficult to separate my associations of the high energy, dynamic yet gentle presence that is Josh Nelson live, from this take-home musical snapshot of a memorable concert when you came to know, and feel, Josh’s music first hand. To experience Josh work his music and his spirit through the congregation or audience is his finest calling. One person standing near me in the audience of one of Josh’s concert, dancing in the aisle, said “this music is such delicious food for the spirit”. Her friend quickly added, “and he is such eye candy.” Josh has all the bases covered, and he is a great role model for a new generation of Jews, looking for spirituality as well as great music that feels at home, both on your iPod or on the radio.
One thing that I love about this CD, apart from the stellar production, beautiful tunesmithing and wonderful musicians…is the packaging. Simple thing, I know, but in this digital age of downloads and binary content, it is nice to hold and examine and explore a tri-fold CD with lyrics, photos and an invitation into the world of Josh Nelson.
If you want to hear Jewish music, served up perfectly, buy “Lift”. I could tell you to download the nearly half dozen tracks that I consider classics, but best that you take the whole journey that Josh Nelson has painstakingly offered on this CD. Crank up the volume in the car on a beautiful day and let it move you. It will become your soundtrack. You will feel proud to be Jewish. It will lift you and make you smile.