Red Thread’s Debut Album Spins Timeless Tales of Love Far-Flung

Note: This piece originally appeared on, the author’s Substack on Jewish music. Subscribe to the newsletter!

Sarah Larsson is a staple not only of Minnesota’s Jewish music community but of its roots music community at large. 

She is a member of The Nightingale Trio, a three-woman vocal group singing music from Eastern Europe and the Balkans as well as Nanilo, a duo singing songs from the Jewish diaspora. She directs Di Bayke Klezmer Band playing Yiddish songs and instrumental music and is a co-organizer of Minnesota’s annual Klezmer on Ice music festival. Her organization, Folk Will Save Us seeks to support and enliven local folk culture.

This is just scratching the surface — Larsson has many fingers in many pies enlivening roots culture in the North Star State. 

On top of it all, Larsson’s group Red Thread just released its debut album “Immigrantke,” (titled for the Yiddish feminine translation of ‘immigrant’) which bridges the many worlds Larsson straddles. “It was coming out of the things I was already working with. That included Eastern European music, as well as Americana tunes, and Irish tunes, and some Scandinavian fiddle tunes.” said Larsson.

As Larsson describes, the album is in one sense a conversation, showing the roots American folk music has in immigrant cultures. 

“This is a really interesting conversation – to ask what contemporary folk music sounds like,” Larsson said. “I’m actively positioning myself in not just the Folk-with-a-capital-F American folk genre, but I’m more intentionally specifically positioning myself in the traditions and genres of immigrant communities.”

Dreaming from a distance

Since 2020, discussions of existence across a distance have become a hackneyed cliché for many of us. Remote work and Zoom meetings, hangouts over FaceTime or WhatsApp, being a #vanlife or bicoastal man-about-town. So it would seem, technology conquered yearning, superseding the palpable feeling of existing in a miles-wide world of borders.

Larsson’s album reminds us that the palpable feeling of being miles away from a loved one persists and is core to humanity’s immigrant lineage. “Sailor’s Lullaby” is an original tune penned by Larsson. She describes humming the tune into existence as she ponders her long-distance relationship sitting by Bde Maka Ska, a lake in Minneapolis.

The song hits your ear like an Americana classic – a genre so often inspired by the comfort or tribulations of a settled life in the States. What Larsson’s tune reminds us, however, is that the ties that bind us often exist across oceans and political boundaries. For Larsson, this was her relationship that, for a long time, existed between Brazil and the US.

Ambience and existence

Another original tune on the album is “Tzeitel and the Tailor,” so named for the couple from “Fiddler on the Roof.” The song depicts a touching scene between two lovers, with sparse acoustic strumming and percussion. The song also shows off the production prowess of Dex Wolfe, a key collaborator who engineered, mixed and produced the album.

Amidst the modal acoustics, Wolfe interspersed refined ambient sounds as well as some klezmer clarinet riffs. Fans of klezmer will be pleased to pick up on a number of tasteful allusions to the klezmer canon throughout the album. Wolfe’s sensitive production grounds you in each track’s individual world and story.

(Un)familiar tales

Two tracks on the album, “Eyder Ikh Leyg Mikh Shlofn” and “Što Morava Mutna Teče” tell stories in Yiddish and Serbian. As Larsson describes the two stories, one’s struck by their relative horror amidst the generally sentimental album. A Jewish seamstress reflects on her lot in life, with wet eyes and fingers bloody from needlework. Two Serbian sisters take a nighttime swim and one of them drowns.

While many listeners may find themselves lost in translation, this actually effectively reflects a common reality of immigrant life. Old World pain is often left behind in an attempt to protect future generations paving a new life in a new land with a new language.

Two other tracks on the album come from the Celtic songbook: “She Moved Through the Fair” and “Wild Mountain Thyme.” The former Larsson adapted lyrics for, reflecting on the untimely conclusions love often has and the cover of “Wild Mountain Thyme” was not actually planned originally to be part of the album.

It was by chance that Larsson would record the classic folk tune with the spare time at the end of a recording session, but its inclusion ties the album together. Life has trials and tribulations, longing and lost love. Despite this we can always find a new home in new love. We can travel to this new home, and bring it the beauty we found along our often desolate journeys.

Click here to purchase “Immigrantke” on Bandcamp