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On Butterflyfish

On Butterflyfish’s Latest Album, Jewish and Christian Stories Make Beautiful Music

For Harvard Divinity School professor Matthew Myer Boulton, the musical experiment known as “Butterflyfish” – whose debut album, “Ladybug,” was hailed as “the ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ for all ages” – has taken another delightful turn with its follow-up record, “Great and Small.”  And this time, the project was inspired by an ancient Jewish tale.

The tale goes like this:  every person should have two pockets, with a scrap of paper in each.  One scrap should read, “I am but dust and ashes,” a line from the Book of Genesis.  And the other should read, “For my sake was the world created,” a line from the Talmud.  Whenever we feel too proud, the rabbis taught, we should read the first; whenever we feel discouraged, we should read the second.

Taken with this idea, Boulton penned the song “Great and Small” – and so begins the album of the same name, a sweetly varied collection of originals sprinkled with a few updated classics, all brought to life with a rootsy blend of folk, bluegrass, gospel, and the spiritual themes so typical of old American music.  The result is tunes that appeal equally to kids, parents, and grandparents – “all-ages songs” that are infectiously singable, sweetly evocative, and inclusively accessible across generational and spiritual divides.

Though the band is based in New England, the trio has personal roots that extend from Virginia ’s Shenandoah Valley to the shores of Lake Michigan, and those Southern and Midwestern influences come shining through the music.  The three singers share lead vocal duties, alternating between Zoë’s honeyed alto, Matt’s buoyant tenor, and Elizabeth ’s clear-as-a-bell soprano – though some of the best moments are when they blend in vibrant harmony.  Shades of Gillian Welch, Dan Zanes, Elizabeth Mitchell, and Jack Johnson suffuse the album, as do the great stories of Jewish and Christian communities through the ages.

“It’s really such a joy to be involved in this project,” says Elizabeth Myer Boulton.  “It’s all about making music meant to help kids, parents, and grandparents wonder together about the big mysteries of life.”  With Butterflyfish, all ages – great and small – can discover the old, old stories made shiny, catchy, and new.

To purchase this wonderful album, click here.

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