Posts Tagged ‘Kruger Brothers’

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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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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

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No Drums, Please, We’re Hillbillies

9 May 2010

What’s that thumping noise?  Why, it’s your Second Cousin Curly’s pulse quickening at the discovery of drum kits among many a bluegrass outfit during his recent visit to Merlefest.  Some thoughts on this alarming trend…

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Merlefest!

1 May 2010

Okay, there’s Doc Watson, Elvis Costello, the Waybacks and even Steve Martin playing here on the main stage, but what is Merlefest as a whole really like?  Sub-Commander Curly sends you a direct report from the comfort of the internet service tent…

If you have trouble viewing this here, you can also see it on my YouTube Channel.

What have we caught so far?  Well, I’m listening to Peter Rowan playing a nice set right now, and yesterday we took in The Waybacks, The Green Cards, Cadillac Sky, the Kruger Brothers (yes, even they had a drummer) and Sam Bush, to name only the acts I can remember.

I’ve been on a tour of the southeast, so— in addition to lots of good music clips from Merlefest— I’ve got a veritable travelogue that will coming at you…eventually.  Stay tuned…

Yer Pal— Curly

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