Many Vineyarders remember John Cruz as a founding member of Entrain who played extensively with the band in the early 90s. Since returning to his native Hawaii in 1995, Cruz has launched a stellar solo career that has won him international acclaim. His debut album "Acoustic Soul"(1996) hit six-figure sales in Hawaii alone and featured "Island Soul," a single, which has become the de-facto anthem of Hawaii. In 2005 Cruz earned a Grammy for his contribution to the CD "Slack Key Guitar Volume 2." In recent years he's played the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Summerstage in Central Park, and Carnegie Hall. He co-wrote "A Case of Ice and Snow" with Phish's Trey Anastasio on Mr. Anastasio's solo CD "Bar 17" and in 2006 was the subject of the award-winning documentary "Made of Music - The Story of John Cruz." His new CD, "One of These Days" was released in September 2007 and quickly cracked the top ten on Billboard's Heatseekers Chart for the Pacific Region and the Billboard World Chart. Some of his high-profile fans include Jack Johnson, Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffet, and surf champion Kelley Slater.
"One of These Days" is a smooth, soulful creation that fuses immaculate musicianship with Cruz's seasoned voice. From up-temp grooves ("Hurricane") to soft acoustic ballads ("Missing You"), Cruz and his musicians inject the songs with gentle vitality. On "Hi'ilawe" Cruz sings in native Hawaiian, to beautiful effect. Cruz recruited an ace roster of session musicians for the disc, including percussion virtuoso Paulinho da Costa, Los Lobos saxophonist Steve Berlin, bassist Glenn Worf, drummer James Gadson, and steel guitar player Greg Leisz. The album was recorded in Jackson Browne's private recording studio and captures the feel of live musicians collaborating in an unrushed, organic way. The Vineyard is represented on the disc, with songwriting contributions from Joe Keenan ("Baby's Gone Blues") and Heather Goff ("Dream Song").
"One of These Days" prompted Jon Woodhouse of the Maui News to call the disc "A landmark recording bursting with memorable songs." Jack Johnson calls Cruz "One of my favorite songwriters in the world," while Jackson Browne sums it up concisely; "He's one of the best."
John Cruz concert, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 7 pm, Katharine Cornell Theatre, Spring St., Vineyard Haven. Tickets: $15 at the door; $12.50 in advance at Aboveground Records, Alley's, and Black Dog Café. For more information, call 808-285-5778 or email email@example.com.
Julian Wise is a contributing writer to The Times.