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The Kruger Brothers Get On The Gospel Train

21 June 2012

This week, we conclude our gospel triptych with a nugget from the vault. You know how you sometimes read in the paper about postcards that get lost in the mail, only to arrive at their intended address years later? Well, something like that happened with this video postcard from MerleFest— MerleFest 2010, that is. Fortunately, the message is timeless. Have a look:

This video underscores a point made in our last episode— that the black gospel tradition has a greater influence in bluegrass today than once was the case. Talk about crossing cultural borders! Here we have a pair of brothers from Switzerland— that would be the Kruger Brothers, Uwe and Jens— playing a gospel song by an African-American soul maestro— Curtis Mayfield.

What is about trains and salvation anyway? How is it that, in relatively short order, the locomotive went from being the noisy emblem of the industrial age to supplanting the chariot as the preferred conveyance to the pearly gates? I note that the Interstate Highway System has been around for more than fifty years, but nobody’s taking I-40 to heaven.

Remembering Doc

That mysterious train carried Doc Watson away recently. Like everybody who loves traditional music, it seems, he touched me directly. One of my earliest memories of hearing bluegrass performed live was when I heard Doc and his son Merle play a concert at Memorial Hall in Chapel Hill, NC. They were at once totally down to earth and out of this world.

MerleFest, the annual music extravaganza in Wilkesboro, NC, honors Merle Watson, who died in an accident in 1985. Doc Watson was a guiding light behind the festival, and the last time I saw Doc was at the 2010 edition of Merlefest. I offer this video postcard from that event as a modest memorial to a great musical pioneer.

Yer Pal— Curly

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