Best known for playing a hyper mandolin, John Kruth is actually a multi-instrumentalist who follows his instincts all over the map, from country and blues to jazz and world music. He’s written a biography of jazz maverick Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and currently collaborates often with folk anarchist Peter Stampfel (one of his earliest role models).
Songs From The Windy Attic is his seventh album, and it’s the closest he’s ever come to an American-roots-music set. But as his pedigree suggests, he has too much of an affinity for rhythm, and for incongruity and outright weirdness, to make a straight-up folk album.
He mixes things up accordingly, starting with the opening bluegrass-plus instrumental “Pulaski Skyline Rag”, named after the Tennessee town where the Ku Klux Klan was born. It has such an inexplicable poppy, Christmasy feel to it that I swear if he added Yuletide lyrics he’d have a seasonal hit. Several songs have eastern flavorings, and a psychedelic guitar colors “That Midget”.
Kruth is a storyteller with a sense of wonder whose songs usually present bohemian slices of life, but the loopy “Retarded Guy” shows a Randy Newman-like flair for pathos. Clearly he’s not for everyone, but he is one of the more provocative, and more entertaining, urban ruralist types around these days.