Alisa Fineman and Kimball Hurd

Alto Alisa Fineman and multi-instrumentalist Kimball Hurd will perform Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Temple Emek Shalom Concert Hall, 1800 E. Main, Ashland. She is renowned for the dusky tones and emotion in her voice. He is a Bay Area Music Association winner.

A cantorial soloist at Congregation Beth Israel in Carmel, Calif., in her day job, Fineman has released "Closing the Distance: Poems, Prayers and Love Songs." The CD features contemporary arrangements of traditional and original songs from the Jewish diaspora.

It marks a radical departure from her previous recordings, and a new direction for her sensibilities. Produced and co-arranged by guitarist Alex de Grassi, the album features Fineman singing in Hebrew, Ladino and English. Two guest vocalists, Elias Lammam and Shabda Kahn, sing in Arabic on the album. The singers are accompanied by a mixture of Middle Eastern and Western instruments.

Fineman says she believes music can transcend cultural divides.

"People are longing for understanding, and want to know about different paths and cultures and religions," she says in a press release. "When they have an understanding, then they have a connection and relationship with it, and then they have a connection to the larger world and all its possibilities."

Finemans first recording was 1988's "Cup of Kindness." She followed with "Better With Time" in 1993. She was voted Best Folk Musician four years in a row by the Monterey Bays Coast Weekly. In 1991, she won top honors at the Kerrville Folk Festival's New Folk Showcase for her songs "One Lone Bird" and "I Could Not Ask For More."

Fineman says her inspirations were Joni Mitchell, Odetta, Willa Cather, Kate Wolf and Mary McCaslin. Indeed, her songs often echo those artists' sense of place, appreciation for the earth's beauty and fragility, and of life's sometimes-difficult choices.

Fineman was a member of Martin Simpsons Band of Angels and a guest performer with Paul Reisler, a founder of Trapezoid.

The Bammie-winning Hurd adds vocal harmonies to the duo's performances, as well as providing an array of musical accents with guitar, mandolin, mandola, dobro, banjo and slide guitar. He also steps forward now and then to offer a song from his own catalog.

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