In an almost unprecedented move, Stockholm-based, Brooklyn-born bluesman Brian Kramer has boldly gone where few have gone before with the simultaneous release of his first novel, “Out Of The Blues,” and a new CD, “Full Circle.” Launched at “Stampen,” a blues/jazz venue in the Swedish capital where the Kramer is often found leading jams and kicking up a blues-inspired shindig, the novel is published by Bullet Point Publishing under the artist’s full name, Brian D. Kramer.
And in Scandinavia, a region now leading the world in crime fiction, “Out Of The Blues” fits nicely into the genre with the added twist of blues music. But to say the book is a crime novel does Brian a disservice: more than that, it’s an intriguing insider view of the world of the pro musician and the daily trials and troubles that can all too easily beset the unwary player.
Anyone who has picked guitar as a jobbing player or sideman will identify with the principal New York-based down-at-the-heel character’s life and problems. Kramer’s album is themed with his book, and lyrics from it crop up repeatedly as prompts in the book’s pages and chapters. The intersection of the album and book is an interesting, complex vision that Kramer carries off with apparent ease. A strong whiff of biographical detail pulses at the heart of the book, including the wistfully titled track, “Going Back To Brooklyn.”
“Full Circle” is an excellent album. Focusing on Kramer’s quarter century as a pro player and his Brooklyn roots, the songs resonate with their mellow rhythm and material that ranges from Ragtime-Blues-influenced songs to Brian’s sensitively-picked steel guitar work. His electric playing is also showcased with a fine bunch of backing musicians, including Chuck Anthony on guitar, Mats Quartfordt on harp, Bert Deivert on steel mandolin and some very soulful backing vocals from Maria Blom, Isabella Lundgren and Fanny Holm. At times, the groove is reminiscent of the late J.J. Cale’s music, with its laid-back melodies and clever lyricism.
You might think that Kramer — who for many years provided back-up guitar to Eric Bibb, both on the road and in the studio, and has also worked with Junior Wells and Taj Mahal — would be struggling with writer’s block, having labored to fruition and produced this highly readable novel. But you’d be wrong: he also wrote all of the material featured on the album. Kramer is simply one of those uniquely multi-talented artists.