"The thing about this record," Melbourne singer-songwriter Deborah Conway begins, "is that it really is bit of a homage to songwriters that we really love who happen to be Jews: Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Randy Newman - the four pillars. They're a rich vein, why not tap it?"
In addition to that holy quartet, Stories of Ghosts - the latest album for Conway and husband Willy Zygier - also draws on the Old Testament for inspiration.
"There's so much beauty in the Old Testament," the 53-year-old says from the home she shares with Zygier and their three daughters, aged 12 to 17. "I mean, there's savagery and viciousness too, but there's a lot of beauty and fantastic stories that obviously resonate down the millennia because they are of the human condition. Not much has changed, let's face it.
"I wouldn't call it a religious record, but there are a lot of references."
Released last month, Stories of Ghosts is far from ponderous. The Dylan-esque track East of Eden recasts Adam and Eve sick of "sleeping rough" in Paradise and escaping by bus after screwing things up for "a lousy piece of strudel".
The exploration of biblical themes began with Take Pity on the Beast, the final song written for Conway and Zygier's previous album, 2010's Half Man Half Woman. The dark tale was inspired by their family history, in particular Zygier's father, a Holocaust survivor. "Both Willy and I grew up in Jewish households," Conway says.
"We both had very Jewish upbringings but both of us are atheists. The interesting thing about being a Jew is that you can comfortably call yourself a Jew and comfortably feel like you live some kind of Jewish life despite the fact that you might not believe in God."
While much of Stories of Ghosts is playful, there are darker tones on the song Too Loud, a list of anti-Semitic tropes.
"It's pretty tough times out there to be a Jew," Conway says. "There's a lot of anti-Semitism. Parts of Europe are becoming incredibly unsafe to be Jewish."Stories of Ghosts is out now. Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier play Clancy’s Fish Pub, Dunsborough, on Friday, the Ellington Jazz Club on Saturday and Mojos on Sunday. For tickets visit deborahconway.com.
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