James Krueger,
(Richly Impoverished, 2004)

James Krueger has been described as a singer/songwriter. That label conjures a James Taylor-esque performer -- just a singer with his guitar. Well, don't think of this album that way. Krueger's vocal work on this album is quite nice (including the back-up vocal in "That Sweet Hangin' Tree"), but it would not be as memorable if not for the supporting strength of the instrumental work.

For instance, "The Loon is Restless" has a soft background accordion that accentuates the emotion in Krueger's climbing voice. The only odd use of instrumentation is the intro to the title song, the first track of the album. It's a swelling synthesized sound that (thankfully) lasts 28 seconds and is (again, thankfully) shuffled away. The rest of the song is wonderful, but that intro doesn't do it any favors.

In some cases, the instrument competes and/or replaces Krueger. In "Shot Through," the piano takes an undulating inverse relationship with Krueger. Ebbing and flowing, they trade places throughout the song. It's a brilliant effect.

In fact, Krueger has such faith in the instruments that they are given their own track, "At My Wake." It's a nice, albeit short, medley/cacophony of instruments. Perhaps it's best that it's that short, keeping the quality condensed.

Fine is a wonderful blend of Krueger's delicate voice and a dazzling array of instruments. The album is smooth and rich like coffee with cream, with each song having unique characteristics. If you want a solid musical performance that perfectly blends instruments with vocals, Fine will certainly suffice.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 17 July 2004