The self-described “street folk” band The Mongrel Jews plays old-fashioned folk and bluegrass music. Though they’ve started playing proper concert halls and touring, the trio still plays music on the corners of their native Seattle.
Instrumentally, the trio is composed of banjo, washboard, and harmonica. Lyrically, they borrow elements from the gargley-voiced Leonard Cohen– and Bob Dylan-inspired school of singing. The entirety of their album Songs for A Minor was recorded in one night, the first night of Passover, after a seder…and their new record, Make Way, Make Room, picks up where Minor left off.
And there are Jewish in-jokes. “Hot Biblical Mess” has a charming sleaziness to it (“Let me buy you a drink…you’re my sacrificial lamb“). “Ballad of the Exiled Prince” tells the story of Moses switching his allegiance from Pharaoh to God–“Like the waters to blood/Like a staff to a serpent/Like the frogs in the mud/I will be your hand and your servant,” sings Aaron Shay. And “The Smuggler Song” is a charming tribute to thieves that sounds like it should be a Rabbi Nahman story…minus the moral at the end.