Kris Gruen, Part of It All | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

Kris Gruen, Part of It All 

Album Review

cd-krisgruen.jpg

(Mother West, CD)

There is a fallacy in rock ’n’ roll that vitality, innovation and edginess are the domain of the young. True, the industry tends to favor youth and, often more importantly, beauty. But there is something to be said for experience. Nuance, depth and worldly wisdom can only be gained through accumulating years. While fresh-faced youngsters can offer base titillation, few moments in music are more thrilling than witnessing a veteran songwriter reach the peak of his or her powers. Montpelier’s Kris Gruen has done just that with his second album, Part of It All. A follow-up to his promising 2007 debut, Lullaby School, the sophomore effort finds Gruen harnessing his considerable skills and establishing himself as one of the state’s finest pop craftsmen.

The title track opens the record. Lithe guitars skip through dissonant changes and set the scene for Gruen. “Stone in my plow, bread from the grain / Best of your words running deep down in my vein,” he sings with playful bravado. But it’s a setup, and we get our first glimpse of his seasoned acumen. What begins as a breezily familiar melody explodes into a purposeful march at the chorus. Where Lullaby School featured mostly acoustic arrangements, here Gruen expands his sonic palate with an arsenal of electric accoutrements.

The airy, melancholy “Euphoria” is next. Gruen is sagacious, delivering sly poetics with breathy charm, while backing musicians waltz sounding dazed and amused behind him.

“Memoir” ratchets up the intensity with alt-rock zeal. “Dunroven’s Farm” is country-road sweetness. Fans of Norwegian pop songsmith Sondre Lerche will no doubt enjoy the hazy, unpredictable “White Flag.”

The record hits a lull at “Wasted on the Young,” which veers a little too close to schmaltzy world-pop for comfort. The next track, “Activist,” resembles Mason Jennings at his most self-righteous.

The gently churning “Red Doors” rescues the album from its brief malaise. “In the park beneath the arch, that’s where I chased those girls / With teeth on top of my lips, I ran then rested in their curls,” Gruen croons with nostalgic whimsy.

“Home” is a clever, vivacious, accordion-led romp, which leads into “Driving Snow” and the record’s graceful benediction, “Of Cordoban Kings (Abderrahman III).”

Artfully conceived and expertly executed, Part of It All is nearly a masterstroke. Sophisticated, spirited and cunning, Kris Gruen is, undoubtedly, a master.

Gruen celebrates with an album release party at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge this Friday. Burlington faves Lendway and Lowell Thompson & Crown Pilot join in.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles

Bio:
Dan Bolles is Seven Days' assistant arts editor and also edits What's Good, the annual city guide to Burlington. He has received numerous state, regional and national awards for his coverage of the arts, music, sports and culture. He loves dogs, dark beer and the Boston Red Sox... more

Comments


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Album Review

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2020 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401  |  Contact Us
Website powered by Foundation