Daniel Cainer: 21st Century Jew
Daniel Cainer is a bad Jew. As this seasoned singer-songwriter-cum-storyteller informs us in his titular opener, his lifestyle doesn’t hold much truck with the Torah. But inspired by a dream of an enraged rabbi, he has turned his songwriting talents to his Jewish heritage, the place of Judaism today, and especially to his family history, with its own mixture of the Orthodox and the Reformed, the devout and the dissolute.
Cainer has a belting voice and an easy, welcoming manner. He’s actually at his best in weightier moments, including the story of one of the final children rescued by the Kindertransport, who found her way into his grandparents’ lives. There’s also a touching and well-judged reflection on Cainer’s uneasy relationship with Israel in the number Jerusalem, and of the violence he experienced from anti-semites in his childhood.
Away from these spikier moments, Cainer can tend towards sentimentality. Songs of his family life are so sepia-tinted it’s like window-shopping in a Jewish offshoot of Past Times. Raising a smile rather than wrenching out belly laughs, an hour in Cainer’s company is a true pleasure, but with a little more edge and more consistently entertaining patter it could all dig a little deeper.