Nathan Salsburg – “Psalm 147”
Nathan Salsburg wrote new arrangements of Biblical psalms for his just-announced album Psalms, which will be out in August. His backing band for the album features some of the guitarist’s many collaborators over the years, including Joan Shelley, Will Oldham, James Elkington, and Spencer Tweedy.
Today, he’s is sharing his interpretation of “Psalm 147,” which he sings in Hebrew. In a statement, Salsburg talked a bit about how his experiences at the Alan Lomax Archive inspired him to dig into the Book Of Psalms:
My formative experiences with Jewish music were collective and participatory, at synagogue and summer camp in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, where the repertoire was heavy with “American nusach.” Played on acoustic guitars, combining liturgical Hebrew with contemporary English translations and Israeli folk-song lyrics, it was meant to be sung with maximum physical investment (jumping, shouting, dancing, swaying) for maximum emotional return, which it absolutely delivered. Its earnestness was its cardinal virtue, as it provided an experience of catharsis similarly guileless and really quite liberating for the young Upper Southern/Midwestern Jew I was. It was not, however, music that I could carry into adulthood—I was too old for summer camp; I stopped attending synagogue with any regularity; I sought more than unadulterated emotionalism. I became drawn, then, to Jewish music in which I was incapable of participating: in time, klezmer and cantorial performances on 78-rpm records; in space, the devotional traditions of Sephardic and Mizrahi communities.
So when I heard Dark’cho, David Asher Brook and Jonathan Harkham’s 2004 album of traditional Chasidic melodies and liturgical pieces, I was smitten by it and brought it in close. It was delicate, intentional music, made by sensibilities I felt in tune with. It was sung quietly and played sparely on instruments I might have chosen. Its spirit was of private meditation as opposed to collective ecstasy; its sound more of seeking than of finding. It was the stuff of aspiration, and it served as a guide to the practice from which Psalms emerged.
Psalms is out 8/20 via No Quarter Records. Pre-order it here.