Tribal Tunes: Natalia Zukerman revels in her musical tribe of ‘weirdos’

 

Natalia Zuckerman Photo by Shervin Lainez

Natalia Zuckerman –¬†Photo: Shervin Lainez

“I have my fantasies of opening for Lucinda Williams or Bonnie Raitt. That would be stupendous,” Natalia Zukerman says. “But I have to say, I’ve gotten to play music with some of my absolute heroes.” From opening for Ani DiFranco and Shawn Colvin, to playing in Susan Werner’s band, Zukerman has solidly established herself in the women’s indie-folk community. Her forthcoming strong, stirring solo album, Come Thief, Come Fire, features a couple more of the scene’s leading ladies, including Erin McKeown and Meghan Toohey. All are part of what Zukerman jokes is “a tribe of other weirdos.”

Although Zukerman grew up in Manhattan to parents who were both professional musicians, it took her a while to find that tribe. “I studied classical music as a kid, and it just didn’t really resonate with me.” So while her sister Arianna Zukerman became a famous opera singer who now teaches voice at Catholic University, it took Natalia some work to unearth her style. The real trigger happened once she picked up the slide guitar as a student at California’s North Indian Classical-minded Ali Akbar College of Music. “I just kind of migrated, started listening to a lot of old country/blues,” she says.

Zukerman will soon make her debut at the Birchmere, opening for another leading member of the tribe, Melissa Ferrick, who she recently supported at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.

And who knows, maybe there’ll be another surprise performance during the show, similar to the time when Zukerman played at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J. “It’s a real down and dirty club,” Zukerman explains, “and my sister got up there and sang true lyric soprano for a couple standards. And in the bar you could hear a pin drop.

“We’ll see if we can lure her to the beautiful Birchmere.”

Natalia Zukerman performs Friday, Sept. 12, at 7:30 p.m., at The Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. Tickets are $25. Call 703-549-7500 or visit birchmere.com.

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Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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