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John Kruth


Got a call Saturday afternoon, a buddy of mine from NYC was in the area. Could I join him for a drink downtown? He didn't have a car, but he was gonna catch a lift into town, and buy a t-shirt at The Station Inn. Sure, I said, I could meet him down there in a half hour.

It was a nasty day, drizzling with a biting wind. Up pulled John Kruth in a black Lincoln Navigator piloted by the widow of Townes Van Zandt, Jeanene, with a tripping internet radio outlaw in the back seat. Day Tripper was just opening the door of perception and tumbling to the ground as we strode up to meet them.

Four or five hours later, we were still being regaled in Brown's diner by JK, a New York via Milwaukee beatnik of rare dementia. He is a poet and a mandolin virtuoso, a lover of music in all its forms and styles, and he can play most of them. His records are replete with klezmer musicians or Morrocan drummers, but he's also toured with The Violent Femmes. He is a noted author to boot, writes articles for many magazines on everything from obscure mountain songs to the architects of German Industrial Music. His book on Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Bright Moments (Welcome Rain Pub.) is a cult classic. But the book he's been working on (on and off) for five years will be his biggest achievement yet, and the quintessential volume on Townes Van Zandt. That's what brought him to TN, going over photos with Jeanene, with whom he's become good friends during the long process. When that long-awaited book is released, we will have the author on the cover with an inevitably engaging interview.

Kruth and I ran into each other on the street in Soho last summer, and I went up to his apartment with he and Marilyn, a fine painter. He presented me with a copy of Songs from the Windy Attic, which he pledged was not characteristically full of funny and strange songs with wild characters in them. I'm not sure if he was conning or in denial, but he was at least mistaken. Great music, absolutely. But titles like "Pulaski Skyline Rag," "1 Eyed Man," "Bill Monroe Sent Me," "Cow #16," "That Midget," and others like "Retarded Guy" assure the listener that this is not a Folkways Recording. But we encourage, nay insist, that you check out the clips and become aware of John Kruth. If you are in NYC, he can regularly be found at the Bowery Poetry Club, playing in a duo with no less than Peter Stampfel of the iconic Holy Modal Rounders. At a recent gig of theirs, Patti Smith and Rounders alumnus Sam Shepard both turned up to jam. We'll keep you posted on his Townes book--meanwhile, check the maestro out on the Listen page... • FG

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