Rich Krueger - NOWthen
Chicago based Krueger has balanced a career in the medical care of newborn infants and been part of the 5 piece band The Dysfunctionells since the 1980s. Despite the surprising combination then the reality is many of the artists on these pages have lives outside music: they need to eat. If there is a surprise then how damn good Krueger is.
NOWthen is his second solo release of 15 tracks and immediately leaps onto my list of year end contenders. A strong and plaintive voice with an attractive timbre and ability to hold a melody is the first draw. Then staggering yet often surreal stories unfold in long and articulate lyrics coupled to heavyweight tunes to make this a joy. Falling into the broad church of Americana. Krueger is close to a Singer Songwriter sound and I think he’d have few complaints to be compared to Randy Newman.
"Girls Go For Arse’oles" is a gentle acoustic melody with acoustic guitars to the fore whilst an organ holds long notes. Krueger’s voice has clear space to deliver a love song strong with eccentricity: “Let me start by saying I’m a liar, Can’t say how much of this is true, But if it makes things any better, I’ll swear by the copper in my tattoo, And you will watching me steal your heart.”
With "Por Que No Me Amas (Love Me)" we go a long way south of Illinois to cross the border. A Mexican melody with accordian recounts a suicide attempt (failed!). We join him after his incompetent drowning and his eventual re-emergence into the city. As always woman trouble underlines his “maladaptive behavior”. As we progress the accordian remains but a Mariachi band adds colour along with an upright bass setting the rhythm as Robbie Fulks helps him sing the chorus.
So up across the border we go Cajun with "O What A Beautiful Beautiful Day". It takes us into Krueger’s other ‘office’: a maternity delivery theatre. Maybe not a promising subject? Nah, absolutely, as the whole album is soaked in humour and here he tells us of dad fainting, hospital bills, unspeakable pain and the fact that it is a day that all will remember for the right reasons.
Again in another genre switch "À Tout Jamais (Pour Eva)" we slow thing down and a ballad of stunning beauty unfolds. We place ourselves in a bleak European setting of a war. Apparently this song was once destined for a play in the mid nineties. Female voices act like sirens in the background above a chorues of other voices. Oh man…
“Me & Mr Johnson” is that Mr Johnson and we’re in Clarksdale with a full electric rock ’n roll band laying down a groove with full brass and a female chorus visiting the folklore of his swap with the devil of his soul for guitar playing prowess.
Did I tell you about the engrossing story of "Don"? Well maybe another time as all the tracks are exceptional.
The lyrics read like short stories. Without doubt his writing is as strong as his music and can stand alone as something to enjoy without the soundtrack. He descibes himself thus “I’m a friendly and open smart and funny guy with a mouth and willingness to use it. I’m pretty much an iconoclast….NOWthen is full of real songs that are never ordinary”. How true.