Kurt Einar Armbruster aka EINAR was born in 1951. He was a professional bassist in the ‘80s and fronted bands in the ’90s. One Good Ride is his most recent release. Armbruster says “I call my guitar-banjo-vocal music “stick-style,” bearing tinges of blues and bluegrass, folk and funk, ambience and indolence, all in the service of alienation, perseverance, and hope.”
There is more than a hint of Tom Waits in his music as well as traditional folk and bluegrass. This album brings together so many qualities I personally look for. It’s dynamic, somehow poignant but never feels melodramatic. It’s often joyous but not saccharine and just has this originality to it that forms a very cohesive foundation.
The instrumental work is really fantastic throughout but it was the vocal work of Armbruster that made this album such a standout. There is a nice variety of energy starting with “Shivaree” which has a much older country vibe to it. It sounds like a song people might dance to before EDM was a thing. The banjo drives the song with a walking bass line and additional percussive elements. There is even a mouth harp in the song.
The Tom Waits vibe is prevalent on “Fools and Wise Men.” The guitar work is a mix of jazz, blues and folk. I really can’t overstate how fun the vocals are. Armbruster almost feels like he is improving the vocals. He just breaks all the rules in every good way possible.
“One Good Ride” is indeed that and brings the energy up while “Bindlestiff” hits on this fun carnival type feel. Armbruster continues to hit it out of the park with “Get Out and Walk (No Highway to Heaven),” “Shadow and Substance” and “Let Your Hair Hang Down.” The man is even a good whistler as you hear on “Gnaw Your Own Bone.”
Armbruster is one of those artists who has more than just talent. He has this ineffable quality that draws you into his world. It’s unapologetic and immediate. One thing I hear a lot from musicians is that their songs are raw, honest and from the heart. That should be given; I hope that is the place where all songs are coming from in some sense. The much harder thing is actually making that connection with the listener. I can only draw from my experience but these songs resonate with me in ways which have those qualities. Perhaps they will for you too. Highly recommended.
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