Mark Rubin laughs in the nicest way when he says, “My music is pugilistic. In some respects, I’m not here to make friends.”
That’s not necessarily a bad thing on either count, and though the topics on his latest album, The Triumph of Assimilation, are hard-hitting, he does want people to listen to perhaps the most unique and compelling album of 2021 thus far.
“I see the job of the artist to be a conduit for many things,” Rubin said. “And, in my case, to make people stop and think, to challenge them, maybe challenge their preconceptions or challenge their understanding of history. And if something I share in one of my songs makes them stop and Google for a second, that’s just wonderful.”
Describing his music on his website as “Southern Jewish Americana,” that’s as close as you’re going to get to putting a genre title on an eclectic collection of tunes that still combine to deliver a consistent theme about the Jewish people, their history, their struggle, and their ability to carry on in the face of unbelievable hardship and tragedy. And while there’s humor interspersed throughout the 10 tracks, some, like “The Murder of Leo Frank,” will make you think and then look beyond the song to continue learning about the story. In short, when you’re done with the album, you will have learned something.
“My end as an artist is to put it out there,” said Rubin. “My job is to be as honest, and I hate to use this word — authentic — as I possibly can and use my platform to present these stories and these histories as best I can. For instance, the first two tunes on the record are what the record is built around, and they come from the poetry of a Polish-Yiddish poet by the name of Mordecai Gebirtig. He was writing in Poland in those years leading up to World War II and the Holocaust and he himself was a victim. And the only reason why we have some of his poems and some of his songs is because they were smuggled out while he was interned. I opened the record with a song called ‘A Day of Revenge,’ and in his poem, it sounds like a recitation of revenge porn. But the payoff, if you listen to the end, Gebirtig presents what I consider to be the quintessential Jewish response to hatred and oppression, and that is love and kindness.”