On the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks, my guest on WFDU-FM’s TRADITIONS was singer-songwriter Judy Kass who shared songs from her new CD Beyond the Ash and Steel.
In 2001, Judy worked in the Employee Relations department for a firm on the 48th floor of the World Trade Center. Due to a family matter, Judy was working from home the day of the attack and watched in horror as the events unfolded on television. She lost 300 colleagues that day and would spend the next weeks providing help and counseling to the families of the victims as well as the survivors. Her own time to grieve was put on hold as she performed her duties, and in the years that have passed, Judy has written heartfelt songs that help the healing process and inspire the listener to continue to move forward and embrace living in the moment.
The Westchester County, New York based singer-songwriter has been creating music from a very early age. She began with classical piano training and eventually writing her own songs on keyboard and guitar. Her love of music continued as she pursued another career, but the events of 9/11 gave Judy the impetus to re-evaluate her goals. She has since begun working as a counselor and re-dedicated her commitment to music. She connected with Tribes Hill, an active music community in Hudson Valley that promotes independent artists and the music they create. With their support and inspiration, Judy earnestly returned to writing songs and has created expressive songs that highlight her gift for storytelling. Her expressive voice delivers songs that cover a wide range of emotions and experiences. She released her first CD, Better Things, in 2014 and received airplay across the country in addition to garnering rave reviews.
Beyond the Ash and Steel, Judy’s second CD, was released earlier this year. The recording is an impressive assortment of songs that show the influences of jazz and blues in both her songwriting and performance. The song subjects are diverse, yet Judy ties them together with her powerful vocals and instrumental skills to create a theme of living in the moment and moving forward. There are many playful moments contained in the recording that juxtapose with emotional storytelling – a reflection of the highs and lows of everyday life. In the end, it is an uplifting collection that delivers a message of hope.
The CD kicks off with the lighthearted “Chili Pepper Nights”, featuring the legendary John Sebastian on harmonica. The song is a reminder of simple pleasures that friends can create to make an evening special of conversation – and a couple of chili peppers to spice things up.
The title cut, “Beyond the Ash and Steel”, is a song Judy wrote after attending the funeral of a colleague who perished in the 9/11 attack. It is also a song is also that grew out of Judy’s own experience and feelings, and it took Judy several years before she was able to perform the piece. The song does not focus on grieving, but about working it through and healing. Of the dozens of songs about 9/11, Judy’s offering does not specifically address the events of that day, but instead remind us to move beyond the sorrow to find the strength to face another day. In my estimation, that is not only a way to honor those who perished but also to find solace to recover from tragedy in other situations.
Another poignant moment on the CD is the closing cut “Selfless Deed”. Based on an incident experienced by a friend, the song tells the story of a holdup at gunpoint and an unusual reaction and gesture made by the victim who used kindness to not only prevent the mugging, but also to help save the would be mugger. The powerful message tells us the kindness of strangers can have greater impact than we imagine. Each of us has the power to make a difference in someone’s life.
Beyond the Ash and Steel features nine original songs plus an interpretation of the folk song “The Snows They Melt the Soonest”. Judy’s striking vocals and instrumental prowess is augmented by wonderful supporting artists including Sara Milonovich, Dan Hickey, Mark Dann and the aforementioned John Sebastian. There are some lovely trumpet licks and vocal harmony from Judy’s daughter Kyla Moscovich, an award winning trumpeter. The CD was co-produced by Mark Dann. Thought provoking lyrics, toe-tapping tunes and the lovely voice of Judy Kass makes for a welcome listen. I look forward to more.
Click on the link below to hear Judy Kass visit with Ron Olesko on WFDU-FM’s TRADITIONS. Originally broadcast on September 11, 2016