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Zoe & Cloyd blend history, bluegrass and klezmer in Songs of Our Grandfathers

Asheville duo Zoe & Cloyd combine klezmer and bluegrass music on their latest album, Songs of Our Grandfathers.
Asheville duo Zoe & Cloyd combine klezmer and bluegrass music on their latest album, Songs of Our Grandfathers.

Asheville roots music duo Zoe & Cloyd combine their collective family musical legacies on their 2023 album release, titled Songs of Our Grandfathers.

The duo – made up of fiddler and vocalist Natalya Weinstein, and songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and singer John Cloyd Miller – set out to make the album a musical tip of the hat to the 1995 release Songs of Our Fathers. The earlier album by musicians David Grisman and Andy Statman features Eastern European Jewish folk music. Notably, Statman also plays on Zoe & Cloyd's release.

"My grandfather was Jim Shumate," says Miller. "He was a fiddler in Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boy and a songwriter as well … Family ties (in the region) have always been really important to me. Those themes make their way into the music."

Miller and Weinstein's grandfathers were hard-working musicians, both practicing styles of music that were separated by different cultures and thousands of miles. Songs of Our Grandfathers pays loving tribute to both and combines bluegrass and klezmer in unique and distinctly modern ways.

Weinstein was classically trained in her home state of Massachusetts before moving south in 2004. Miller, a 12th-generation North Carolinian, is a previous first-place winner in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest as well as the Hazel Dickens Songwriting Contest.

Songs of Our Grandfathers was released last year and received notable reviews in such publications as No Depression and Bluegrass Unlimited.

"I think for us this project definitely highlighted (our family ties)," Weinstein said. "I don't know that we really leaned into them as much in the past … we previously focused on our own original music. But definitely having that influence growing up and having the support of our families in the process was huge."

“Sing Me Home" is an Arts & Culture series produced and hosted by Laura Blackley.

Laura Blackley has been making music in Western North Carolina for several years. She’s a singer, songwriter and guitarist who specializes in country, blues and rock with an emphasis on songwriting.