Thirty-three year old singer Yael Deckelbaum may have mature grey streaks in her flowing black hair, but she is still as shy in person as when she stood on stage at the age of three, hugging her father’s leg, too small to reach the microphone.
It was Deckelbaum’s father, David, a dentist by day and banjoist by night, who founded Israeli folk band Jerusalem Taverners and taught Yael how to sing from a young age. Last week she returned to her Jerusalem roots, playing three consecutive nights with members of her father’s band as part of the In-House Festival created by the Jerusalem Season of Culture.
Deckelbaum raved in an interview about the emotional highs of these intimate shows, commenting that it “returns me to my childhood and gives me great memories.” She talked about the “strength of these special people” and the “indescribable energy” of her father’s old friends and bandmates.
But while Deckelbaum and her father — who died two years ago — shared a certain shyness, sense of kookiness and optimism, Deckelbaum displays a wild side on stage, a Janis Joplin, rock-stirring, soul-searching brand of performance.
A recent show at Tel Aviv’s Levontin 7 witnessed Deckelbaum chugging whiskey, scatting along to her guitar and poking fun of the small, intimate size of the audience. Any shyness that exists in her daily life disappears on stage, and she has the ability to bare her soul, holding the crowd to her every word, scat and note.
Deckelbaum first became known as one of Habanot Nechama, the so-called Comfort Girls, but now has two solo albums that offer consistently soulful folk-rock. “Ground Zero,” her debut solo album with English lyrics, is a psychedelic folk trip through her childhood with songs that are packed with vocals, instruments and purposeful extraneous background noise. “Joy and Sadness,” her second album of only Hebrew songs, is more of a straightforward folk journey with “songs for my father, my mother, myself, and almost all the rest about relationships,” she said, claiming that she has “never succeeded in writing a song that takes me to the place that singing Janis [Joplin] does.”
With her emotion-filled sophomore album done, and three sold-out performances in Jerusalem behind her, Deckelbaum left “people in the crowd flying,” she said, after last week’s performance.
As for Jerusalem, she’ll be back soon, specifically on Thursday, August 2, at the Jerusalem Woodstock RevIVal IV at Kraft Stadium, where Yael Deckelbaum will be hosted by Libi & the Flashback, playing — what else? — Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.