There’s a very compelling story that goes along with this quietly stunning record.
But let’s first shine a light on the music which springs from the talented mind of composer, lyricist and bassist Andrew Kratzat. The songs on Greetings from the Andrew Kratzat Singers are uniformly excellent; they’re self-contained melodic gems that effortlessly cross genre lines. Each tune also spotlights a different singer, so Kratzat’s thoughtful but concise lyrics get conveyed in different shades. It’s a very intriguing approach. The opener, “Gilese 581d,” sets the understated tone with a sax, an acoustic guitar and Joey Dosik’s soothing voice singing about leaving Earth for a new home – ostensibly in a spaceship, but the lilting song runs deep with metaphor. “It’s just too crowded for me to stay / I’m sorry about all the fights / I’ll do this one right.”
Kratzat was a music major at the University of Michigan and preparing for post grad music studies out East when a 2011 auto accident resulted in traumatic brain injury. Undeterred, he has been steadfast in keeping his lifelong connection with music alive; his wheelchair even unfolds and puts him in a standing position so he can play upright bass.
In one sense, Greetings from the the Andrew Kratzat Singers represents both a retrospective and a victory for the artist. Written between 2005 and 2008, the songs feature several of his friends and fellows – and their talents are formidable. Anna Ash’s simultaneously gossamer and powerful vocals pair nicely with the full but tastefully restrained instrumentation on “Little Brother.” The more acoustic-driven “Lazarus” features a plaintive vocal from Luke Gyure, while Laurel Premo fronts “The Thief,” a slightly countrified, banjo-tinged tune that sounds ready made for her clean, unvarnished voice. “I ain’t happy but I sure ain’t sad no more,” she sings unsentimentally. The net effect of the song, as with the entire record, is easy appreciation for the melodies plus an opportunity for deeper consideration of Kratzat’s lyrics. The disc closes with “Don’t you cry,” a string-fueled bravura conclusion that’s both sad and strikingly beautiful. Theo Katzman sings of love, loss, and consequences over a stunning arrangement.
Andrew Kratzat has a lot to be proud of on this record: his talents showing through, his colleagues’ impressive performances and his ultimate triumph in achieving what all musicians strive for, direct emotional communication with the listener.
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Marcus King Band
July 21 • Sweetwater Performace Pavilion