The Kruger Brothers is a trio of musicians who play new American folk music, or music within the folk genre inclusive of new compositional and thematic elements. The trio consists of Jens Kruger (banjo, harmony vocals), Uwe Kruger (guitar, lead and harmony vocals) and Joel Landsberg (bass, harmony vocals). The group is acknowledged as one of the most innovative ensembles active in Americana music today.
Originally from Switzerland, where the trio first formed, Jens Kruger and Uwe Kruger later moved to Wilkes County, NC. The brothers began playing North American folk music at an early age and were particularly inspired by recordings of Doc Watson, Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, and other progenitors of country, bluegrass and folk music. Their first public performances were as a duo, busking on the streets of cities throughout eastern and western Europe. Later, after gaining a recording contract as well as a radio show on SRG SSR, the Swiss public broadcaster, they teamed up with bass player Joel Landsberg, inaugurating a trio that has been playing professionally together since 1995. Landsberg is an American citizen from New York, NY. The first recording project to include Landsberg was Behind the Barn, Vol. 2, which was released in 1997.
Today the group is highly regarded within the world of acoustic music in North America, in particular by those within the industry. They have also gained the attention of some of the musicians, including Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Tut Taylor, and Bobby Hicks, that once served as models. Watson once remarked that, "The Kruger Brothers are just about as fine a band as I’ve ever played with. … I love to play music with them.”
Music and Recordings
Although initially staying fairly close to a traditional repertoire (with the one exception of a rock inflected album, Access All Areas, released in 1996) the Kruger Brothers later turned to song writing and composition in order to draw more closely from their personal experiences. The result is a catalog of songs distinguished by rich detail and an insight into the delicacy and complexity of everyday life. The honesty of their writing has since become a hallmark of the trio’s work.
Another important hallmark of the Kruger Brothers sound is the banjo playing and composition of Jens Kruger. Happy Traum has described Kruger as "one of the world's most musically sophisticated and technically accomplished five-string banjo players." Kruger plays in a melodic style that, while it may stem from the three-finger style popularized by Snuffy Jenkins and Earl Scruggs, is also differentiated by long melodic passages and a more complex compositional style, often taking on jazz or classical themes and techniques.
The recording that cemented the Kruger Brothers' sound and song writing, Up 18 North, was released in 2002 on the Double Time Inc. label. Included there were a number of tracks that signaled the direction the band was to take in future projects. The title track "Up 18 North" is an instrumental piece, with banjo clearly in the foreground, that remains a prime example of the type of close ensemble playing that characterizes the trio's work. The vocal track "Carolina in the Fall" is an early example of the very personal, resonant, and mature songwriting that they continue to this day.
Most recently their music has ventured further into the themes and forms of classical music, most obviously in their 2011 release, Appalachian Concerto.
The Kruger Brothers apprear occasionally on others' recording projects, perhaps most notably Norman Blake, Nancy Blake, and Tut Taylor's Shacktown Road (2007), and Steve Spurgin's Past Perfect (2011).
Distinctions and Awards
- On September 27th, 2013, the Kruger Brothers appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman. They performed their instrumental piece "Jack of the Wood" with the Kontras Quartet and Steve Martin, who played clawhammer banjo. After the performance, Jens was awarded a statuette commemorating his receipt of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music.
- In September 2013, Jens Kruger was named as the 2013 recipient of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music.
- In 2011 Jens Kruger was cited for induction into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame in the category of Regional Musician.
- In 2007 the Bangor Symphony Orchestra and the Kruger Brothers received an award for Artistic Excellence from the National Endowment for the Arts.The award was granted in support of the production of Jens Kruger's Music From the Spring.
- Spirit of the Rockies (2014)
- Remembering Doc Watson (2013)
- Best of the Kruger Brothers (2012)
- Appalachian Concerto (2011)
- Christmas Magic (2010)
- Forever and a Day (2010)
- Between the Notes (2009)
- The Suite (2007)
- Carolina Scrapbook: Gospel Edition (2006)
- Carolina Scrapbook Vol. 2 (2006)
- Choices (2004)
- Up 18 North (2002)
- Carolina Scrapbook (1999)
- Travel the Gravel (1998)
- Behind the Barn Vol. 2 (1997)
- Access all Areas (1996)
- Behind the Barn (1995)
- Merlefest Live: the 15 Anniversary Jam, DVD. Merlefest, 2003.