Like a sun coming up over a morning horizon; the words “KRUGER BROTHERS” have lately been looming into view in my little world. The buzz around this music trio has become very loud, and the people for whom I have the most respect musically, are the people who have been most enthusiastic about these guys. Their recognition by the ‘Blue Ridge’ category is but one of the accolades this trio have received.
Last night at Hamilton Place’s intimate Studio theatre, I had my chance to check them out. When Jens Kruger (banjo), Uwe Kruger (guitar), and Joel Landsberg (bass) walk onto the stage, they look like a typical bluegrass outfit; three middle-aged men carrying the typical tools of that trade. By the time they walk off, they have obliterated all expectations, shattered all musical barriers, and left their audience in head-shaking, satisfied wonder.
Their sheer virtuosity is staggering. Jens is a master of his instrument. At his touch the banjo sounds like itself one moment, like a classical guitar the next, or chimes like a bell, or an electric harp. He rings the beauty out of a single note, and just as easily rolls across the listener with a cascade of perfectly articulated ideas.
Brother Uwe is a powerful guitarist. Several of the solos that he played were the stuff of fantasy air-guitar; agile, creative, and passionate. These two extremely gifted men have been making music together since they were kids, and it shows.
Landsberg has been a part of the mix for decades, as well, and his supportive, intuitive bass lines were a pleasure to hear.
Besides their enormous instrumental talent, they bring a very amiable stage presence, terrific vocal harmonies and a broad palette of varied pieces, ranging from bluegrass to country to pop to folk and rock. They perform covers of other artists’ material (one Dylan tune was introduced as a “Minnesota folk song”), and their own, very sophisticated originals. Their Appalachian Suite , written for accompaniment by string quartet, was wonderful.
All of the powerful buzz around the Kruger Brothers is entirely justified. They deliver the goods in every way. The virtuosity was evident throughout, yet always in the most musical of ways; no showing off for the sake of showing off.
The trio, originally from Switzerland, but now living in North Carolina, has been developing a following in Ontario over the past while which is growing quickly.
I look forward to their next appearance in this area, and would urge anyone with an interest in instrumental music to keep an eye out for them.