[dropcap2]J[/dropcap2]John Kruth wears a lot of hats. As a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (mandolin, guitar, banjo, and harmonica), he has released seven albums since 1992’s Banshee Mandolin, including his latest, Splitsville (2008). The Star Ledger (Newark, NJ) has called Kruth “a major talent, with an understanding of how to craft a first-class lyric.” After listening to Songs From The Windy Attic, Patti Smith, the godmother of punk, told him, “I like your album. You’ve got a nice voice.”
He is also a consummate collaborator, having performed at Carnegie Hall as a soloist for composer John Corigliano, as well as with playwright Sam Shepard, poet Allen Ginsberg, performance artist Laurie Anderson, producer Hal Willner, folksinger John Prine, Violent Femmes, the Meat Puppets, Elliott Sharp, and formed the Electric Chairmen with members of Camper Van Beethoven. U. Rajesh, the Carnatic mandolin virtuoso of India, has called John “a true artist,” while jazz guitarist John Scofield hailed his performance as “burnin’.” Kruth’s picking once inspired Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin) to enthuse, “Great mandolin playing, mate!” And after watching him wow the crowd at a tribute to Neil Young in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in 1994, blues/rock guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer told Kruth, “You’re a real entertainer.”
Kruth is also a professor of music at Manhattan College, a journalist, a producer of records and musical events, and a poet whenever the inspiration strikes. An author of six small-press poetry books, Kruth’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Progressive, Sing Out!, Frets, Wax Poetics, Fretboard Journal, and Signal to Noise.
Kruth’s first biography, Bright Moments: The Life and Legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk was published in 2000 by Welcome Rain Books in the U.S. and England, with a Japanese edition released in 2005 by Kawade Shobo and a French edition from Swiss publisher Infolio in Spring 2007. The British jazz/experimental music journal The Wire wrote that Kruth “illuminates Rahsaan Roland Kirk like photographic flash bulbs.” Said David Hajdu, author of Lush Life, the award-winning biography of Billy Strayhorn, “It’s swirling with fire, humor, audacity and surprise . . . His research is formidable, his writing is fresh and exciting, and his enthusiasm is irresistible.”
Regarding Kruth’s latest book, To Live’s To Fly: The Ballad of Townes Van Zandt (March 2007, Da Capo Press), Anthony DeCurtis, contributing editor of Rolling Stone, wrote, “In John Kruth, Van Zandt has found a biographer well-suited to his eccentricities and rough edges, a man who understands him and who brings light into his dark places.” Sam Shepard wrote that the book is “. . . A fervent tribute to a true legend of American songwriting. John Kruth has tracked the back story of Townes Van Zandt like a manic bloodhound without spoiling the mystery of the man.”
Kruth’s curiosity and diversity continually leads him into a variety of intriguing musical settings, from New York to Nashville, from Morocco to Croatia, from to Ireland to India as well as England, Spain, Germany and the Navajo Nation.
John Kruth is also a member of TriBeCaStan. He lives in New York City.