Kris Gruen – Welcome Farewell
This is Kris Gruen’s 5th LP & it comprises 9 well-written easy-going songs with above-average lyrics, well-thought-out & applied to the music. Nothing is earth-shaking, challenging, or controversial. It’s just good music to listen to & appreciate within the spirit in which it was made. Vermont’s Gruen (acoustic guitar/vocal) is a basic folk-singer with a John Denver-likeable approach with branches in the Towns van Zandt/Steve Goodman tree. The songs are melodic, played with enthusiasm.
Welcome Farewell (Drops Sept 24–Mother West) & it’s an LP that has to have something that will attract just about anyone who enjoys good singer-songwriter-type songs. “When She Says,” is a beauty. The mixing has the instruments heard yet, nothing overpowers the song itself. Jack McLoughlin’s pedal steel /lap steel performance is subtle.
The LP explores autobiographical family tales, community, the great outdoors, skims memoir, & is basically rooted in storytelling. Gruen has a laid-back vintage Roger Miller-oriented voice as depicted on his classic (“River In the Rain”) at times. Not always. But his storytelling vocal rides along the rim of that extraordinary musical genre. Applied quite well to “Skyline Drive,” which is quite a song.
Produced by Charles Newman (piano/keyboards) the work by Kris is somewhat more literary than the mainstream folk-singer of 2021 but Newman helps to make the material not sound crowded, bombastic, with overblown production. Newman may be an excellent singer-songwriter-oriented producer because each song is captured here wondrously. Some songs are slow but are created within a vivid atmosphere of instrumentation. “When I’m Down,” is woven carefully, rootsy with a middle-of-the-road foundation with pedal steel by Gerald Menke.
There’s a rural sound (“Water Into Wine”) that emanates & musicians (too numerous to mention) that add to this music’s consistent exuberance. Rob Morse (upright bass), Randy Schrager (drums), Paul Casanova (guitars), & Probyn Gregory (French horn/trumpet) among many other contributors.
The finale’s a true beauty. Kris’ cover of the late Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” is reborn as a slow song & a beautiful piano ballad. Absolutely lovely.
Color photo by: Jeff Forney. The 33-minute CD is available @ Amazon & http://www.krisgruen.com/