KERRVILLE 2018 NEW FOLK WINNER, RICH KRUEGER IS SET TO RELEASE HIS SOPHOMORE EFFORT, NOWThen (October 26, 2018)
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“Wince-Inducing Brilliance… A Chicago neonatologist undertakes to show the world he's also a major songwriter, complete with wavery high baritone that hurts so much it'll make ordinary mortals wince.”
—Robert Christgau, Noisey by Vice
What album do you know that features Gary Lucas (Cap’n Beefheart), Robbie Fulks, Peter Stampfel, John Fulbright, Sarangi Celtic, and Mexican harps, tuba, theramin, dogs, horns, Mariachis, AND great songs? And what do the themes of love, Wittgenstein, Cook County jail and trapeze artistry have in common? The answer to both questions is Rich Krueger’s newest release, NOWThen.
Rich Krueger jumped into the spotlight in 2017, after releasing his first album, Life Ain’t That Long to worldwide critical acclaim, and non-commercial Triple A radio play around the world. Since then he has done numerous interviews in the US and UK and was a finalist in the Grassy Hill Kerrville New Folk Competition in 2017 and 2018, which he went on to win in 2018.
The 15-song, NOWThen is self-produced and self-released. Krueger’s brother provides the artwork. The title means a couple of things as Krueger explains, “My body of songs are coming from two different periods in my life. The first, (Then) is from 1985-1998 when I was in medical school/graduate school/residency/neuroscience post-doc. After almost a 20-year gap, I started writing and performing again in 2007 (NOW). The other meaning is that I have changed, my life has changed, and the world has changed. I found it interesting that some songs that were written previously seem to have anticipated to some degree, major issues happening today.”
Most of the players from Krueger’s first record also play on NOWThen, but there are many others new to this project (see separate player sheet). Along with those mentioned above, there are appearances from friends, Erik Frandsen (The Colbert Report), Casey McDonogh (NRBQ), Jay Ansill (acclaimed Celtic performer/composer), and Jim Becker (Iron & Wine). Some of the arrangements are far simple than LATL, but a couple are much more elaborate. “Yesterday’s Wrong (Green) has an Indian music feel, with Indian instrumentation, “O What A Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful Day” is Cajun-based, and “Por Que No Me Amas (Love Me)” features a Mariachi band.
Two of the songs on the album, “Kenny’s (It’s Always Christmas In This Bar)” and “Don” are the songs that made Krueger a 2018 Kerrville New Folk Winner. The aforementioned, “Por Que No Me Amas (Love Me)” also has strong Chicago ties. It was written for a play in Chicago in the 90’s called, “Love Me” (whose performers/writers would eventually compose “Urinetown The Musical” and win 3 Tony Awards). It was also the first song of Krueger’s that got Robbie Fulk’s attention and began their musical fanship. He duets with Krueger on this song.
“In Regard of Flight” soars (pun intended) as it features the Skinny William horns and gospel singers. It’s a song that Krueger considers, “One of my best.” “In Between Kingfish” features the acclaimed singer-songwriter, John Fulbright on accordion and renowned composer and folk musician, Jay Ansill on Celtic harp and violin. “Jay is my old high-school friend,” adds Krueger. “Everyone playing on this record is a longtime good friend, or is a friend I made during the last record, or is a longtime good friend of a good friend, or became a friend while making this album. Without those connections it wouldn’t be worth doing at all.”
Most songs were written before the recording began, but 4 songs were written during the recording process: “Kenny’s”, “Don”, “Me and Mr. Johnson”, and “O What a Beautiful Beautiful Beautiful Day.” This song features Peter Stampfel on fiddle and Jim Backer on mandolin. “One late night just after I began writing songs, I met Tom Waits on an El (elevated train) in Chicago,” Krueger explains. “He somehow was willing to talk to me and he said many wise things. One was that one should write about what you know. This is my first attempt at writing about what I do for a living, being around births.”
Professionally, Krueger is a clinical neonatologist at the University of Chicago. “I work 80-100 hours a week as a doctor,” he points out. “Making music somehow happens on that background. Musical ideas come quickly when I mess around with the piano, guitar or banjo. Keeping my eyes open helps, and writing down ideas as quickly as they come is necessary.”
Krueger, who cites Jacques Brel as his strongest influence, also enjoys hitting up open mic nights at local bars. “I can’t get enough of them,” he exudes. “I love theatre, I love great comedy, and I love reading about history. I also like bars a whole lot. I probably spend more time in them than I should, but not nearly as much time as I’d like to.” The song, “Kenny’s” is ode to the owner of Krueger’s favorite bar, The Gallery Cabaret…a place where everybody knows his name.
NOWThen is a work of love and of hope, hard work and joy and about having open eyes. “It reflects my life and my friends,” the artist discloses. “It reflects my basic philosophy about life which I can sum up this way: There are 2 points here. First, there is one fact that has always been true, and always will be true about human beings. And that is that some of what any person knows to be absolutely true, is actually not true. The sad corollary of this fact is that most of man’s inhumanity to his fellow men, and most of the evil men do in this world are a direct result of a difference of opinion with me about my first point.” He adds, “I’m a friendly and open smart and funny guy with a mouth and willingness to use it. I’m pretty much an iconoclast. You can’t spend any significant amount of time at a place like The University of Chicago and not be an iconoclast.”
Rich Krueger’s songs are songs that could only be made by an outsider, and observer. They might make you think, they might make you laugh, and they might even trouble you, but NOWThen is full of real songs that are never ordinary.
For more information: http://richkrueger.com/
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