It's Christmas and Hanukkah at the same time
Blues guitarist Lazer Lloyd's musical pilgrimage led him to a place that bridges Western and Eastern cultures.
Born Lazer Pinchas Blumen in New York and raised in Connecticut — surrounded by his father's passion for music — young Lloyd's life changed forever when he heard Stevie Ray Vaughn play a live concert.
The liner notes on Vaughn's albums point to blues greats Albert King, T-Bone Walker, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and others who paved the way for American blues and rock. Listening to their recordings, Lloyd discovered a new world of music.
"When I first heard Albert King, I was stunned," he writes in his online biography. "It was just a killer sound. Nothing like it."
After graduating from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, Lloyd moved to Manhattan to work with Atlantic Records, and one of the label's A&R scouts set him up for a recording session with producer Gary Tallent in Nashville. Then his life took another direction.
"At that point, I had no connection to Israel except that I was born Jewish," Lloyd says. "Then I met a homeless beggar in Central Park. He told me of a synagogue, where I met a hippie rabbi named Shlomo Carlebach. He played spiritual folk music, and I played blues. He had me come play a concert in Israel, and I just fell in love with the vibe of the people. I felt called to grow spiritually and musically here in Israel."
Lloyd will present a solo show at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 25, at Havurah Shir Hadash, 185 N. Mountain Ave., Ashland. A dinner of Chinese food catered by Yuan Yuan will be served at 6 p.m. Tickets are $30 for the dinner and show, $15 for the show only, and can be purchased online at brownpapertickets.com/event/2720495 or Music Coop, 268 E. Main St. See www.havurahshirhadash.org or call 541-488-7716 for information.
Lloyd met his wife, Ilana, in Israel, and Middle Eastern music became a regular thing in their home. Lloyd began to experiment with alternative guitar tuning to fuse his new country's folk styling into blues music.
"I worked it into the songs 'Moroccan Woman,' written for my wife, on my 2015 self-titled album, and 'Back Porch' on my 2013 'Lost on the Highway' album," he says.
"In Israel, I've learned to tap into things above my intellect and just let the music come from a different place. My faith has much influence on my music, yet I don't like to preach. I just want to give listeners some idea of how I relate to a connection with an infinite being.
"My philosophy of my music being a bridge between East and West changes as I learn more about the world and people. It's all about being spiritually connected to each other. The higher you go, the easier it is to see. That's the beautiful thing. The reality is that we have so much in common."
Lloyd's newest studio album, "America," is set for release Jan. 8 on digital, vinyl and CD by Lots of Love Records. The title track was recorded solo with Grammy-nominated engineer and producer David Ivory in early 2016 — along with studio versions of Lloyd's Facebook hit cover of "Watchtower." The rest of the album's Americana songs were recorded in Israel, with the rhythm section from Lloyd's 2015 album: Moshe Davidson on bass and Elimelech Grundman on drums.
"I'm entrenched in Americana music because that's where I grew up," Lloyd says. "I think there is a deep spirituality in it, along with some naive purity. It doesn't have a dark side. It's easy on the soul, uplifting and wholesome. The world needs that right now.
"I grew up with the great North American songwriters: Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell. They are huge influences on me. I started writing songs in college, and my lyrics reflect the long road of travels, days and nights on the road performing, raising my family and living in the Middle East, close to deeply painful tragedy and inspiration. I am an emotional man, and my songwriting captures the fire and the tears. It keeps me balanced."