Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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John Kruth

  • Splitsville [Smiling Fez, 2008] A-
  • The Drunken Wind of Life: The Poem/Songs of Tin Ujevic [Smiling Fez, 2015] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Splitsville [Smiling Fez, 2008]
A prize-winning Townes Van Zandt, Roy Orbison, and Roland Kirk biographer renowned in new-folk circles as the mandolin-motorvating founder of free-conceived NYC world-music troupe TriBeCaStan, Kruth got interested in Croatia because that's his artist wife's heritage. Recorded with on-site Croatian and overdubbed US musicians of casually impeccable chops, these melodically bent, structurally straightforward, verbally concrete songs were inspired by multiple visits to the bustling old Croatian beach city of Split. Delivered in Kruth's raspy, plaintive mandolinist's voice, they're a writer's songs whether praising women or lamenting politics--simple and pointed with just a few duds. And the four instrumentals are intro, interlude, and farewell enough. A-

The Drunken Wind of Life: The Poem/Songs of Tin Ujevic [Smiling Fez, 2015]
On Kruth's second Croatia album, mostly American musicians render the tunes Kruth wrote for English translations of the poems of a wandering modernist bard who died blacklisted by Tito 60 years ago. It's more haunting than Splitsville, with Kruth's deliberate, nuanced, murmured, pitch-challenged, and once merely spoken vocals deepening its affect. The brief plucked folk-dance intro and Ujevic-inspired Kruth original "Girl From Korcula" brighten things up. But a six-minute "Daily Lament" that earns its title seems the peak--until it's topped by the five-minute closer "Blood Brotherhood of Persons of the Universe," which also earns its title. A-