Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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John Kruth & La Società del Musici [extended]

  • Splitsville [Smiling Fez, 2008] A-
  • The Drunken Wind of Life: The Poem/Songs of Tin Ujevic [Smiling Fez, 2015] A-
  • Forever Ago [Ars Spoleteum, 2018] A-

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

John Kruth: 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-

John Kruth: 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-

Forever Ago [Ars Spoleteum, 2018]
The book-length celebrator of Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Rubber Soul and leader of the departed TriBeCaStan is a native New Yorker who gets around. So having upped his game with two albums rooted in summers spent with his Croatian-born wife in the holiday port of Split, he crossed the Adriatic to cut 14 of his songs in Spoleto with a Neapolitan mandolinist he met in Manhattan. Thematically and geographically, the material gets around too, from a Milwaukee pal loading up a bag of Christmas goodies for poorer folks across the river to a tuna melt heated up on a desert dashboard to a cautionary reflection on Croatian Catholicism: "There's only one thing that I fear / When the old communist goes to church." Switching among seven instruments including his own mandolin, honoring Sylvia Plath's paranoia, or playing checkers with his cat, he's no kind of singer except the kind Dylan let in the side door with his everyman impressions. But he sure has a broad compass. And he lives to convince anyone who'll listen that that's the best kind of compass to have--by miles. A-