Sometimes you need only one song and sometimes it takes years but if an album is really good you will eventually know it. For Life Ain't That Long, it didn't even take a song. The first few measures of “A Stoopid Broken Heart”, I knew. By the end of the second song, I really knew and by the end of the third I was laughing, it was so damn good. Rich Krueger, where have you been hiding?
I am no real fan of Randy Newman but I love his play of words and infusion of comedic context. Krueger has it too, that seeming genius ability to tie words into knots and unravel them at the same time. Just about anyone else would make a mess of it all, stumbling over words piled one on the other like a wreck on a freeway during an icy winter morning at rush hour. Krueger, however, makes short work of it, telling us all about that which cannot be seen.
You are going to miss this if you're not careful, I want to say. Allow me to use the lyrics of “77/17” to prove my point, starting with a preface available only in the liner notes... “(You) really creep me out... it was thirty years ago... get over it,” (signed) Nancy H”. Which turned into, in the song, “A couple hundreds nights and, Christ, I really loved you Nancy”. I don't know Nancy but I want to meet any lady who captures a man's fancy for thirty years, even if only in a creepy way. That, Sports fans, is love.
And the album started so innocently too, a nice country-leaning tune (the aforementioned “A Stoopid Broken Heart”) opening the album, a song which could have been taken from Michael Dinner's excellent The Great Pretender album, minus Dinner's signature voice, of course (Krueger's is as good in its own way) but taking a whole 'nother direction with “The Gospel According to Carl”, the lyrics one long run-on sentence but so easy to follow because Carl has a lot to say and not much time to say it because, as the title of the album says, life ain't that long.
The title of the album is, in fact, a line from song number four, “A Short One on Life”. Funny but I always expect title tracks or songs with the best lyrics to supply the title, but ol' Carl, as good as his spiel is, takes home a red ribbon to this track. Which does not prevent me from marking “The Gospel According to Carl” a song of consequence. I have heard few like it and only a few of those as good.
Krueger draws from the wells of gospel here and there, as did Newman on occasion, the songs maybe only hinting of actual godliness but full of goodliness, nonetheless. I mean, if you like Newman, you will find a lot to love here but it is more than that. Krueger reaches way down and creates his own musical paths, song after song. Paths which suck you into an altered universe in which you get lost in other peoples problems and successes for a change.
It feels like daydreaming, does Life Ain't That Long. Like sitting in a favorite food court, creating fantasies around the people you see. Call it people-watching-put-to-music, and very very good music, at that. Now that I think about it, maybe perfect music for the moment.
Rich, ol' buddy, we don't know one another but I get it. I hear you have earlier albums available, too. I will get to them, I promise, but give me time. Because I get it. And I thank you. And, just so you know, you're right. Life ain't that long and, yes, there oughtta be a law against stoopid. Thanks for the reminder.