Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma
“Mark is simply one of my very favorite all around fantastic and authentic real folk musicians!” Chris Strachwitz, Arhoolie Records
“Everything Mark Rubin does is done with no compromise. He is fearless, fearsome, and most of all, completely musical!” Gurf Morlix
“Mark Rubin’s songwriting silences the superficial chatter, revealing myriad stories that tell just as much about his community as his role within it in the 21st century,” Dom Flemmons
Oklahoma-born, Texas-reared, and now living in New Orleans, multi-instrumentalist Mark Rubin is an unabashed Southern Jew, known equally for his muscular musicianship and larger-than-life persona. Over an accomplished 30+ year career, he has accompanied or produced a virtual who’s-who of American traditional music, while straddling numerous musical genres, including Country, Western Swing, Bluegrass, Cajun, Tex-Mex, Polka, Klezmer, Roma, and more. He is perhaps best known for co-founding the notorious proto-Americana band Bad Livers, though his more recent work as a first call tuba and bass player in the klezmer music scene has now earned him equivalent notoriety.
His credits in the Jewish music world include long time collaborations with Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars, The Other Europeans, and Andy Statman, as well as two decades on faculty at KlezKamp. He has been featured performer and instructor with multiple appearances at Yiddish Summer Weimar, KlezFest London, KlezMore Vienna, Klezmer Festival Furth, Festival of Jewish Culture Krakow among others. Jew of Oklahoma debuted as a special feature at Toronto’s Ashkenaz Festival in 2016.
Today, he lives and works as a professional musician in New Orleans and makes a study of the musical traditions and cultures of South Louisiana. He recently took a position at the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience where he jokes he’s an exhibit.
His latest album, The Triumph of Assimilation, was released in June 2021. Highlights of album reviews are below:
- “There’s no better distillation of Jewish American identity couched in Southern culture than a 30-minute yarn seesawing between humor, horror, and rage relating to the ways the region’s legendary hospitality clangs with Jewish custom. For most Jews, “hostility” is the likelier word. For Mark Rubin, the Jew of Oklahoma himself, the luxury of just being plain old exasperated is welcome by comparison. …In the South, Jews are acknowledged merely as Jews. Rubin’s radical argument is that maybe they should be treated as people.” Andy Crump of No Depression
- “Ultimately, The Triumph of Assimilation comes across as an affable affair, albeit one that often comes across with a decidedly tongue-in-cheek approach, an amiable offering that’s flush with good natured intent. Consider this a triumph indeed.” Lee Zimmerman, American Songwriter
- “Rubin not only has superb musical chops, honed over decades, but he’s clearly been thinking deeply about everywhere he’s been and everything he’s played. Sick of being told that he’s not Jewish enough for Northerners and not Christian American enough for Southerners, The Triumph of Assimilation is a musical manifesto, an electric declaration of being exactly enough, to hell with the haters.” Rokhl Kafrissen, Tablet Magazine
- “Mark Rubin is a legend from back in the alt country days, known for his pioneering work in the 90s with his band The Bad Livers in Austin. While he’s never left behind his earlier punk bonafides, his new work in recent years, billed as Mark Rubin – Jew of Oklahoma, has been more focused on the complexity of his identity as a Jewish person of Southern descent. With his new album, The Triumph of Assimilation, he masterfully melds old-school roots music with Yiddish protest songs and brutally acerbic ruminations on the long history of American anti-semitism.” Devon Léger, Folk Alley
- “If an Okie Jew had a banjo and set his latest tune to a field-song arrangement, he’d very likely wind up with something like “It’s Burning”…It’s not what one might expect from a Jewish dude. But that’s the point of the track and the Triumph of Assimilation as whole.” Kristopher Weiss, Soundbites