Forever Ago


“So many delicious delights – wish you all the best in this new album” – Van Dyke Parks

Robert Christgau – The dean of American Rock critics reviews “Forever Ago” (read the article)

I first met Claudio Scarabottini three years ago in the Autumn of 2014 when we played the music for Shakespeare’s The Tempest for the New York-based experimental theater company, La Mama. We became fast friends, working together daily under the direction of Liz Swados (to whom this album is dedicated). While Claudio and I are multi-instrumentalists, we are both mandolin players that draw from different traditions. Claudio mostly plays in the classic Neapolitan style, where my approach draws from American roots music: folk, blues, bluegrass and rock. Whenever we played together there was never a shortage of enthusiasm and fresh ideas to share.
Three years ago, while I on my annual summer vacation in Split, Croatia, Claudio suggested I come to visit Spoleto and play a few shows with him and his friends, the folk singer Massimo Liberatori and his great group La Società dei Musici. We all had a great time making music, eating and drinking and I soon returned again to play with Massimo and his gang, and to record on his new album Tratturo Zero. Soon after the sessions Claudio and accordionist/record label director, Gianluca Bibiani suggested I return again, this time to do an album of my songs, backed by La Società dei Musici.
As a singer/songwriter I have released ten solo albums over my career, when I haven’t been busy either writing books or leading the New York-based world music ensemble TriBeCaStan. While I had a handful of unrecorded songs, I needed to write another six or seven to comprise the new album. My recent travels in Italy, Croatia and the U.S.A. helped provide the inspiration for many of the lyrics, which reflect my impressions, from the American Southwest in “Picnic in the Sun” to the Everglades in Florida, in “Drivin’” as well as the piazza in Campello, where I witnessed “the girl with the red hair in the red dress” dancing the Tarantella one hot July night. Other songs are dedicated to the late, great poet Sylvia Plath and the Austrian painter/architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser.
Working with an Italian band in an Umbrian studio has been great fun (and sometimes a challenge as I don’t speak the language)! While many of our musical styles – employing mandolin, guitar and accordion fit hand in glove, our differences helped create a new wonderful fusion of sound and poetry.
I enthusiastically look forward to returning to Umbria again in the Summer of 2018 to perform the songs from Forever Ago with the wonderful La Società dei Musici.


John Kruth



Picnic in the Sun was inspired after a road trip to the American Southwest, where I once lived in the late ‘70’s. The lyric reflects the fever dream of traveling alone through the primordial landscape of Arizona and New Mexico. The sun was so hot, an egg or your brain could fry on the dashboard of your car.

Goodnight Sylvia is dedicated to the late, great poet Sylvia Plath who could no longer endure what her friend and fellow poet Anne Sexton called “that awful rowing towards god,” and took her own life. Too many friends of mine have also chosen the path of suicide over the years, and my feelings about it found their way into this song.

Forever Ago was inspired by watching “the girl in the red hair in the red dress” dancing the tarantella in Campello “on a hot July night” last summer. I have been doing a lot of traveling in recent years, playing music from Los Angeles to New York and around the Mediterranean. Each verse of this song reflects the loneliness on feels at times, despite the beauty and wonder of their surroundings.

Waiting by the Window captures the freedom, uncertainty and excitement of the road (complete with a gypsy mandolin riff). Sometimes driving late at night can trigger all sorts of thoughts and memories: “In the rear-view mirror is your mind any clearer now?” This tune was written from the perspective of the one left behind – the mother, or lover, while the wanderer is out having adventures, discovering new aspects of their self.

The Wild Birds of Heaven was written when a loved one was facing a serious surgery, and the thought that I might never see them again in this life. Into the Forest Alone is a penny whistle tune I wrote climbing around the mystical hills and caves of Skibbereen, Ireland. It just seemed like a good coda to an emotional ballad.

Mr. Crow is just another installment in my on-going obsession with the big black bird that has figured into just about everything I’ve written, from poems to songs and stories. Sometimes the best music is made with as little as possible – a couple of harmonicas and handclaps.

Drivin’ was inspired by another hallucinatory road experience, this time driving across Alligator Alley down in southern Florida, getting lost in the gloaming and missing my flight.

Vacation is another fever dream, not mine, but one I imagined after witnessing a nun faint on a hot summer afternoon while she was waiting to board a bus in Split, Croatia. The exhaust fumes and her habit proved too much for her to bear in the oppressive heat and she passed out. The lyric tries to evoke what she might have experienced while unconscious.

Share the Failure is just another minor-key breakup song with a Russian death dance tacked onto the ending.

Christmas Eve is a true story about my old friend Paul Finger from Milwaukee, who loaded up some bags full of toys, fruit and candy and trudged through the falling snow to “deliver to some folks who lived across the river.” Claudio Scarabottini’s beautiful choral arrangement was a real thrill to sing to!

Blonde is a fun and funky jam, an ode to what those pretty women will do to you, whether blonde, brunette or…

Checkers with My Cat portrays a broken-hearted loser, all alone after his lover has gone, and even his cat has had enough of his sorry routine.

The Old Communist was written in Milna, on the Isle of Brac, off the coast of Croatia where my sweetheart, Marilyn and I spend our summers at her family’s ancestral home. She thought she had better go to church as everyone in the small town was sure to gossip if she didn’t make an appearance. I stayed home, playing banjo on the porch, bewildered by the notion that the church pews were filled with former communists.

Hunting for Water is dedicated to the wonderful Austrian-born artist/architect/visionary/ environmentalist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The bits of vocalese are a tribute to the late-great composer/author Elizabeth Swados who introduced me to my co-producer/musical collaborator Claudio Scarabottini in 2014.