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The Fern Sidman Commentaries:


She's been called the "Jewish" Judy Collins, and her original lyrics and hauntingly beautiful voice have garnered accolades from the Jewish community to veterans of the music industry. In her debut CD, folk singer and songwriter, Phyllis Blackman reaches new spiritual heights with her call for all Jews to "Come Home", which also happens to be the name of her new album.

"I dedicated my CD to my beloved parents and to the person who inspired me to write these songs, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis," said Phyllis Blackman. "For the past 18 years, I have attended the Rebbetzin's Torah classes and her messages of returning to Hashem and living a fully committed Torah life were the catalyst and driving force behind this album. The title track, "Come Home" is a call for all Jews to return to Hashem. Hashem asks, "Where are My children, why don't they come home, I'm waiting so long, why don't they answer? I'm waiting for you, My special treasure."

The Brooklyn College graduate and former lead singer in a band did not always lead a Torah life. "In college, I sang with five men in a folk group. We sang ballads with wonderful harmonies and became very popular on campus. Hashem put me at CBS Records, working as an assistant to a producer. When the producer heard me sing, he wanted me to do an album, but I was very shy and said no. In my later years, I became more business oriented opening my own company, Blackman Consulting, and put my music on hold. During that time, I met Rebbetzin Jungreis", and my life began to change.

The 11 track CD (really 12, with the hidden track) features a song called "Hineni", named after the international Torah outreach program founded by Rebbetzin Jungreis in 1973. Phyllis describes her journey as filled with Heavenly assistance. "I became fully observant and passionate about Judaism, but my music was still on hold. It was on Shabbos that I read a passage which said, 'whatever talents you've been given, use them to serve G-d'. It was at that moment I decided to write music for Hashem. As I was praying a song came into my head with words and melody. "Come Home My Children" was born, and on every Shabbos since then a new song has be given to me".

Other soulfully inspired melodies on the CD include, "Thank You Hashem", "Dwell With Me", "Gifts from G-d", "Pischu Li", "Hineni", "Oh Dad" and "Because It's Shabbos". Phyllis credits the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach with being a musical muse and source of inspiration. "I always wanted to sing Rabbi Carlebach's songs. He was a trailblazer in Jewish music and his heart, soul and passion came through in all of his music. That's why I recorded "Return Again".

Recorded at Lofish Productions in October of 2007 with the help of sound engineer Reed Taylor and a group of Phyllis' very musical friends, all of the songs were written by Phyllis with the exception of a few which are credited on the CD. The "Hineni" song, Phyllis said, "was originally written for me as a love song, but I felt it was a perfect vehicle to express my appreciation to Hineni and so with permission, I rewrote the words. It is one of my favorite songs on the CD".

Also on the album are Dan Becker -soprano saxophone and flute, Phyllis herself playing guitar, doing vocals, playing bongos and cowbell, David Goldman - guitar and arrangements, Beth Kanter - bongos, shakers, sound effects and reading names, Katie Schielle - oboe, Ariella and Michael Shloush - vocals, laughter, Reed Taylor - djembe, guitar, shaker and Sheri Wagner on guitar.

Phyllis' lovely, wistful, alto voice is joined by another voice in the song "Acheinu", which is dedicated to Jonathan Pollard, and the three Israeli soldiers (Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev) kidnapped by Hizbollah and Hamas. Phyllis asks listeners not to forget them, to continue to pray for their safe return.

"Dwell With Me", Phyllis says, "Speaks of building a Temple for Hashem in our lives, to set Hashem before us, to learn, pray and to perform acts of kindness. We ask Hashem to dwell with us everyday."

In "Gifts From G-d", Phyllis sings of the simple things in our daily lives that we often take for granted. The wonder of the universe, "the sound of thunder, the smell of bread baking, the taste of chocolate, the sun on our face, the changing leaves of autumn, the breeze in our hair, watching the sunrise, the quiet prayer at sunset", all gifts from G-d to be appreciated.

One of the most personal and heartfelt songs is entitled, "Oh Dad" written for her late father, Sol Blackman, Z"L. Phyliis said, "I wrote this for his birthday and he proudly walked around playing it for everybody. When he was sick in the hospital I brought my guitar and played it at his bedside. When he couldn't talk, he would tap his foot to it and when he died I read the words as his eulogy". It speaks of their special relationship, and her great appreciation of his devotion. "Oh Dad, you've given me life not only mine but yours".

This album scores a big thumbs up as a musical must in your CD collection. It's soul stirring melodies, permeated with Ahavas Hashem and a sense of genuine warmth, will arouse even the most hard boiled among us. It's lyrics and tunes will melt away our sorrows, as the words remain in the deep recesses of our hearts and our memory banks. Simply put, one cannot walk away from listening to this CD without developing a greater appreciation of the daily wonder and miracles that our lives represent. We will gain a greater understanding of our G-d given path and mission as Jews, as we are inspired to embrace our Holy Torah and indeed, to "Come Home" to the Master of the Universe.

"Come Home" is now available at J. Levines bookstore, Kips Bay Borders and Hineni. For further information on obtaining this CD, please contact Phyllis Blackman at:

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