Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Concert Tour to honor her brother

singer plays to honor fallen brother

Texas singer-songwriter Kristy Kruger is making her way across the United States to fulfill a dream of her own, as well as one for her late brother. Both Krugers had wanted to see all 50 states, but in their own way: she as a traveling troubadour, and he as an officer in the U. S. Army.

Her brother, Lt. Col. Eric Kruger, was killed Nov. 2, 2006, by an improvised explosive device in Iraq.

“I came up with the idea to do these shows when our family was at his funeral,” Kristy Kruger explains. “His birthday was Jan. 12, and I couldn’t figure out how we should mark that day, so I decided to put on a show. That would give my parents something to do and a place to go, and it turned out to be such a wonderful experience.

“ I told stories about Eric, we all laughed and remembered him, but when the show was over, I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do next.” Recalling that she and her brother had the shared dream of eventually traveling to all 50 states, she decided to carry out the plan in memory of him, and at the same time, give herself an extended period of grieving and reflecting in the process.

Her brother was of a rank high enough that he could have declined service in the war, but he volunteered, and she decided he deserved more than just a funeral and burial in Arlington National Cemetery.

“He really loved America,” she says. “I figured that by the time I am done, I’ll have shared a little bit of him across the country. Things like how funny he was and how much of a history buff he was.” During his 18-year military career, Kruger served in Korea, Bahrain, Africa and Afghanistan before deploying to Iraq and dying on his second day in the country. He had been based in Fort Carson, Colo., and was the highest-ranking officer from there to die in the war.

By the time Kristi Kruger reaches Arkansas, it will be the 14 th state she has performed in, in tribute to her brother. Before she embarked on her 50-state tour, she was already a musical presence in Dallas, where she has released five independent CDs, the latest of which won the 2007 Independent Music Award for Best Americana Album of the Year. In 2006, the Dallas Observer presented her its award for Best Female Vocalist.

“I started touring when I was 22, and I’m 31 now,” Kruger says. “So it’s not like I’ve put my career on hold. Playing music is what I’ve always wanted to do, but I’ve had stretches where I had to wait tables for a time. I’ve done a lot of grass-roots touring, just driving in my car by myself.

“ The last conversation I had with my brother, right before he left, I told him I felt I was having a ‘quarter-life’ crisis, even though I was 30. I felt that maybe I should be married and having kids, but told him it was more important to me to travel and go to new places and meet new people and play music. He said no one could understand that better than him. Neither one of us would be happy working in an office. We both had adventure-seeking in our blood.” Though she sometimes tours alone, her Arkansas tour will feature a trio format, as she’s bringing drummer Richard Hewitt and singer-songwriter Dylan Sneed, who plays guitar and banjo, which are her chosen instruments, also.

“People have been really incredible as I’ve gone around doing this, taking us in, cooking for us,” she adds. “I try to avoid hotel bills when I can, and people’s kindnesses have restored my faith in humankind.” Donations to the Fisher House, she explains, go to a nonprofit facility in Rockville, Md., which cares for injured veterans.

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