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Canadian Orthodox woman releases debut album

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PAUL HUDSON PHOTO

While Naomi Adler was writing the title song of her debut album, Twice Down On Luck, she wasn’t thinking about her two marriages.

“I did the melody, and the words just came out. As it turned out, it is about my marriages. Subconscious, I guess,” Adler said, laughing over the telephone.

The second of Adler’s marriages ended in 2000, a few months after her sixth child was born. Now her children are all grown up, ranging in age from 18 to 28.

Adler’s road to recording an album has been long and winding.

Growing up in Vancouver, Adler always loved to sing. She was a loner who was uncomfortable with her peers, who were taking drugs and partying. At 19, after speaking to a Chabad rabbi, she was convinced that the path of Orthodox Judaism was for her. As she embraced Orthodoxy, she shut the door on her dream of a career in music, since Orthodox women are forbidden to sing at events where men are present.

After her first marriage to a non-observant man ended, Adler was left with two children. She was living in Montreal, when through a matchmaker, she met her second husband, a follower of Chabad-Lubavitch.

Marrying in 1993, the couple moved to England. When the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, died in 1994, Adler’s husband decided to leave Chabad for Satmar, another chassidic group. “When we moved back to Montreal, we moved into a community I had not lived in. It was very different from Chabad,” she said.

“if you can sing out in the street, you can sing anywhere”

When her marriage ended in 2000, she went back to school, graduating with a political science degree from Concordia University. In 2004, she moved to Israel, where she took on several jobs, including catering and running an online English business directory, to support herself and her children.

She also made money singing in the streets of Jerusalem. “My friend told me, ‘If I could sing like you, I’d be standing out on the street busking.’ I didn’t really know what that was. I asked her, ‘Don’t you think I’ll get eggs thrown at me, being I’m a religious woman?’ ” said Adler, who was wearing a wig at the time. It turned out that she made more money busking that night than she made in a week at her day job. “I needed the extra income,” she said.

Adler learned the basics of singing through busking. “I learned very quickly – especially because it’s outside and the acoustics were different – how to manipulate my voice. It was training for me. I would say, if you can sing out in the street, you can sing anywhere,” she said.

Adler returned to Canada with her children in 2012, settling in Richmond Hill, Ont., where she publishes a monthly magazine called The Jewish Local. Exploring the dating scene, she registered with the Jewish dating site, JDate, and posted a picture of herself singing into a microphone. Barry Lubotta, president of Marshmellow Records, saw the picture and got in touch with her.

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“It wasn’t a match,” Adler said, but together they went to open mic nights at the Harlem Club in downtown Toronto, where she performed. Impressed with Adler’s soulful voice, Lubotta brought her in for two days of recording at his studio, Phase One Studios, whose clients have included Nikki Yanofsky, Holly Cole and Rihanna.

Twice Down On Luck, a collection of R&B, pop and jazz standards, as well as original material, is the first of two albums that Adler recorded. The second one is due to be released soon.

Twice Down On Luck includes covers of Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey and Billie Holiday’s God Bless the Child, as well as seven strong original songs. The title track is about finding happiness when it feels like your back is always up against a wall. In the song, Tic Toc, backed by the voices of Cadence, a Toronto-based a capella group, she sings about how friendship has helped her “get up off the floor,” she said.

“Every song I wrote – even if it’s about something hard – they always have a silver lining: you can get through it, you’re stronger now,” Adler said.