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The Wailing Wall – The Low Hanging Fruit

on July 12, 2010, 7:59am
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Our influences surround us; they make us who we are and direct us to whom we want to be. The summer before his sixth grade year, Jessie Rifkin, the man who is The Wailing Wall, was taken to a Bob Dylan concert, and it changed his life. That moment would shape the music he would eventually make on his debut, but now on his second record, he’s re-discovering his roots, and what it means to be the only Hindu-raised Jewish guy on the block. The songs that make up The Low Hanging Fruit are short and sweet and lend a look into what’s now possible for the musician once given the right equipment. Rifkin is an undeniably talented songwriter who’s only getting started.

The new record reaches right into his world of mixed spirituality, using musical elements from both worlds with an element of tragedy filling his bleak story telling. While those eastern influences make an appearance here and there, Fruit can’t be pinned to just one sound. Rifkin is finding his muse and trying his hand at a few different styles that take you from sparkling Jonsi-like escapes to two-stepping alt country. Whether it’s in a slightly tribal feel added to the percussion or a subtle sitar, from the jump off you hear the blending of his natural diversity. He uses those elements to come around to something wholly familiar though slightly different take on enduring lefty pop, as heard with the chimes and sitar on “Bones Become Rainbows”.

Rifkin is now moving far away from the narrow corner of folk that he left us with on his debut, and while “C.M.R.” sticks to the acoustic of old, you get the sleek country guitars of  “Dandelion” to show us some more of his new side. As a composer, he’s expanding on his instrumental pallet and doing the same to his songwriting. Single person folk becomes bigger with a full band and plenty of twang as on “Song”. The escalating chants and stomping toms of “Speak Not Its Name” jaunt your nerves in a song about trying hard not to run away from your worst fears. They are completely different when laid back to back, but when listened to as part of the larger record, they help divulge what Rifkin is searching for.

Some takes stay simply centered on certain choice elements, making the song about the story and the emotionality, as on the somber accordion of “Fear No Apple, Fear No Flood”. The same feel goes for the equally as focused plucking of “C.M.R.”, this time with a longing accordion for atmosphere. Rifkin is a poet, with striking tracks like these offering some of his best prose to get wrapped up in, no matter how emotionally down they might be. Throughout the record, he struggles with the human condition, social isolation, and his own life’s direction. You can feel it the strongest when he laments, “What a humiliating thing to have to be human” or when he brings up broken hearts yet again on album closer “Hands and Teeth”. In spite of all this, he seems to be moving past all the internal issues and getting it all out now.

While lyrically introspective, the music is a window into what could be possible with the dozen or so directions Rifkin could take. He can be simple and direct or grand and atmospheric, with elements crashing together around his uniquely pitched voice. Fruit is more development but is solid in creativity and a genuine need to be absorbed and understood. There will be more to the Wailing Wall story; you can just feel it. This record is just too much of a leap forward for there not to be.

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