Eric Lindberg has heard the labels of Jewish bluegrass, even Jewgrass, tagged to what he and his wife Doni Zasloff perform as Nefesh Mountain and he shrugs them off.
“I consider it American music. I grew up an American Jewish kid and I play bluegrass music,” he said in a recent phone interview from his family’s home in Montclair, New Jersey. “There’s a lot of diversity in bluegrass music these days.”
The two, who will perform with their full five-piece band Saturday at Waco’s Common Grounds, write and perform music that spins out of their lives. If it has a Jewish flavor, with occasional Hebrew lyrics or texts from the Hebrew Bible, that’s because they’re Jewish. Nefesh is Hebrew for soul or spirit and that spiritual dimension is part of who they are.
“We’re an interesting band and it was born out of love between Doni and I,” Lindberg said. “We’re trying to be ourselves, inclusive and loving, in that beauty and pain and sorrow and extreme joy (of life). I find it to be profound. Bluegrass has been a special source of it all over the years.”
Rather than keep their religious and spiritual life in the background of their music, the two weave it throughout. Sometimes that’s best expressed in English, sometimes in Hebrew, said Zasloff.
Lindberg plays banjo, guitar and dobro — piano and bass, too — while Zasloff plays the guitar, although not during a performance, preferring to focus on vocals and interacting with the audience. Joining them in Saturday’s Common Grounds concert are David Goldenberg on mandolin, Alan Grubner on fiddle and Tim Kiah on upright bass.
Performing across the country — Saturday is their Waco debut, though they’ve played venues in Dallas and Houston multiple times — Nefesh Mountain finds human connection with their listeners, a connection that’s closer to reality than the polarization often experienced in social media and political conversations.
“There’s so much love that exists in this world. If we can share love through our music, we feel this can happen,” she said.