|KREG VIESSELMAN "The Pull" (Red Kite Records)
These days it seems like everybody who can hum a tune and string a few words together and handle a guitar, is billed as a singer-songwriter. It gets even more peculiar: there are so many real good ones out there, that even they can't find decent gigs anymore and have to settle for self-released albums and internet sales. So I turn my head in disbelief, when somebody like Kreg Viesselman appears out of the blue... A good one indeed, who also managed to land a record deal during his first tour of the UK and is embraced by DJ's and critics alike. The music bizz suddenly seems to make a bit more sense to me!
Who is Kreg? Back in Minnesota, he learned to play classical piano and listened to his parents' records: Johnny Cash, The Statler Brothers, Harry Belafonte and of course church music. One of his friends brought "Exile On Main Street" over and everything changed all of a sudden, there was also a Leon Russell and a Ry Cooder out there and a harmonica, that he got when he was twelve. Old enough to work, he became a carpenter (typical singer-songwriter profession!) but kept having this recurring dream that he played the guitar. While working at a Summer camp, he met the great Taj Mahal. What the heck was Taj Mahal doing there? Anyway, for Kreg this encounter meant that he quit playing in a garage band and started listening to artists like Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, John Prine and Joni Mitchell.
From there it went fast, he started writing songs about his various travels and the people he met, in 1998 a live EP was released, followed in 2000 by "Many Rivers". Producer Evan Reeves worked with him on "Kreg Viesselman" (2003) and now again on "The Pull", nicely packaged with Kreg's own artwork on the cover. Twelve original songs from the blues vein, with a touch of soul and folk. Great guitar playing, but the harmony-vocals, even a kora, the harmonica and especially that Wurlitzer deliver the most wonderful additions. "The Busker" is a perfect song in all its simplicity, at other places lines go from absolutely gorgeous ("The snowbirds return to their northerly towns")
to sadly ridiculous ("Peter Peter hamburger eater / Had a wife and used to beat her"). Still some work to do here for Kreg!! Although I always like this type of raggedy & rusty voice -I hear a resemblance with Boris McCutcheon, which is good-, I also have to say that this is often a bit too much of an early Tom Waits. I recently listened to favorite album "Small Change" again and now I barely kept myself (probably somewhere halfway "Louise") from checking if something got mixed up in my discoteque. I knew it wasn't possible, as that Tom Waits is an old cassette we bought out on the road... Next time I certainly would love to hear less Tom and more Kreg!
Written by Johanna J. Bodde, January 2007.