Can’t You Hear Them Banjos Ringin’?

13 May 2010

After attending this evening’s Banjo Extravaganza, perhaps I’ll have a new favorite banjo player or three to crow about.  For now, however, I’m pretty high on Jens Kruger who, together with his guitar-wielding brother Uwe and bassist Joel Landsberg, form the Kruger Brothers.  The Swiss-born Krugers have built up avid followings both in Europe and in their adopted home of North Carolina.  Make that a rabid following— listen for that guy barking out “Uwe!” and “Jens!” behind me on the clip below.  He was…well, a committed listener.

Anyway, Jens is certainly no secret in the world of roots music.  If I’m not mistaken, he was the only player from outside the band to accompany The Waybacks throughout their “Hillside Album Hour” performance of “Abbey Road” at Merlefest this year.  Other performers came and went, but Jens was on stage from start to finish, insinuating himself into all those familiar tunes so gracefully as to make you think that they had been composed with the banjo in mind.

It’s precisely Kruger’s blend of technical wizardry and musical taste that make him a joy to hear on his own and an asset to any ensemble.  Check out his approach to that old crowd-pleaser, “Sixteen Tons:”

Having made such a fuss about the addition of drums to bluegrass ensembles, I’ll be the first to admit that this clip doesn’t help sell my cause. The thud of the percussion sounds great here, where a big, greasy beat is entirely called for.

Would love to  hear some banjo players’ assessments of the current state of five string playing, from Scott Vestal to Béla Fleck to Greg Liszt.

Yer Pal— Curly


  1. Dear Second Cousing Curly,

    You’ve rescued my Thursday from the grip of hell. (This started out as a reeeealy baaad day.) After noodling around your blog, I’m smiling. All is well. Thanks for the therapy.


    • Hey Cyberpuddy (with monikers like ours, you and I should start up one of those branding companies)—

      Well, you just made my day in return.

      Yer Pal— Curly

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