There are few true auteurs in pop music. The closest most so-called pop auteurs come to multi-tasking is mustering a balance between singer and songwriter. Southerly, the nom-de-tune of Krist Krueger is the product of a bona fide DIY visionary. Not only does Krueger sing, write and arrange the music of Southerly, he's a seasoned recording engineer, record label manager and professional booking agent. He remains hands-on in all aspects of his music.
The Portland artist's lush, orchestral pop is reminiscent of The National, Brendan Benson, Richard Ashcroft, Elliott Smith and former Tindersticks frontman Stuart Staples. Krueger recorded the second Southerly album, Storyteller and the Gossip Columnist, with his own full orchestra and horn arrangements. The arrangements flesh out the songs, which center on Krueger's otherwise intimate singing style. Even in his solo performances, you can almost hear the sweeping and swooning violins, horns and backing vocals that surround Krueger's every note.
Southerly's sophomore release is the latest edition in Krueger's catalogue of ornamental and skillfully crafted albums. As with Best Dressed and Expressionless (2004), Krueger's debut, Storyteller plays as an entire album keeping with the tradition of conceptual musical works. Storyteller was recorded in two separate rounds (necessitated by Krueger's rigorous touring schedule) at Haywire Studios in Portland, OR in 2006 and 2007. The release sees the close of 3 1/2 years of full-time touring, both as a solo artist and full band.
Recently dubbed "a one man musical army" by Skratch magazine, Southerly revisits the golden era of lush pop orchestration. His songs include signs of great craft while finding a way to stray far outside the traditional verse/chorus structures often dictating the final product of too many modern artists. Krueger started the project in 2003, tracking songs with a hand-me-down microphone and an Otari four track reel-to-reel in bedrooms and basements, releasing short runs of hand-packaged cassette tapes on his own imprint (dharmakayamusic/DKM). Southerly meddles with both antifolk, rock and alt country roots while taking cues from old-timers like Woody Guthrie, Jimmie Rodgers and Bill Monroe for his gypsy-like touring habits (he's actually even part Hungarian Gypsy.)
Storyteller and the Gossip Columnist features an array of players including Ryan Heise (System and Station, Protest Hill), Cory Gray (Desert City Soundtrack, Laura Gibson) and Ryland Bouchard (The Robot Ate Me). The album was engineered by Robert Bartleson (Wilco, Desert City Soundtrack) and co-produced by Krueger and Bartleson.
In 2006 Southerly became a full band. No longer a solo singer/songwriter project, the band features players from the recordings including Bartleson on bass guitar, Heise on drums and Casey Montgomery on guitar, accordion, organ and more. In July and August of 2006 the band embarked on the Kill Rock Stars’ The Sound The Hare Heard Tour in support of the compilation of same name which Southerly appears alongside players such as Sufjan Stevens, Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists) and Laura Veirs.
If there is one word or term that would entirely define Storyteller and the Gossip Columnist and Krist Krueger's writing style, it is not "singer/songwriter," "indie," "folk" or otherwise. It would be that Storyteller is, in its entirety, an "album", from start to finish, over and over again on repeat.
Storyteller and the Gossip Columnist is Southerly's first album for the Portland, OR based Greyday Records, which will be released worldwide on May 15th, 2007. The vinyl version of the album will be released by Olympia, WA based People In A Position To Know Recordings.