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Biblical Women’s Stories, Told on a Fiddle

What do biblical women’s stories, klezmer-punk with a side order of bluegrass and Central America have in common? Alicia Jo Rabins, whose well-deserved personal tagline is “fiddler extraordinaire.” Rabins, perhaps best known in Jewish circles for her fast fiddling with the band Golem, popular for their unique klezmer-punk fusions, has recently launched a new project: Girls in Trouble. The group’s first album, due out the day after Yom Kippur in 2009 (and put out by Jdub, the same label that carries Golem), will hopefully carry on with Rabins’s work so far: exploring the lives and stories of biblical women. The preview tracks available online are lovely, with Rabins’s clarionclear strings underlying melodic vocals, strong percussive beats, and lyrics that seem strangely familiar — these women, for all their unique experiences, could be women from our own day.

“Essentially, what draws me to these stories is their darkness,” Rabins told Lilith. “The girls (and women) in these stories really are in trouble, and often, the trouble gets written on their bodies: Miriam’s leprosy, Dinah’s alleged rape, or the sacrifice story of Yiftach’s daughter. There’s no sugar-coating in the Torah. It’s not just about love, it’s about the full range of emotions, and also what’s left unsaid. It’s such dark, fertile ground: so human.”

Rabins is currently enjoying gigs in Central America, where she is touring as a musical ambassador of the U.S. as part of the Hoppin’ John String Band. (The musical ambassadorship is a program of the State Department, administered by Jazz at Lincoln Center.) Loyal fans and devotees of great new music by Jewish women will have to wait for the Girls in Trouble CD, but luckily Rabins’s music can be heard online on her website, her MySpace page and through Jdub.