TVD Premiere: Kris Gruen, “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory”

The alt-folk artist Kris Gruen has an intergenerational connection with the 1970s rock and punk scene in New York, so it’s more than appropriate that one of the first singles off his new album is a wistful cover of the legendary scene maker Johnny Thunders’ tune “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory.”

Gruen said, “When I was born, my parents were working with The New York Dolls. I grew up hearing those various, raucous Dolls anthems that drove punk (as a genre) to the forefront of pop music. Many don’t know that Johnny Thunders, the Dolls’ lead guitarist, had a solo career as a singer-songwriter.” Gruen’s father, Bob, is a one of the leading photographers of the era perhaps best known for his iconic photo of John Lennon wearing a “New York City” t-shirt.

What makes the new single stand out so clearly, besides Gruen’s tender vocal and the song’s heartfelt lyrics, is the way the singer makes the tune his own. Thunders’ version hides some of the lyrics under the explosive rock beat of the era. Gruen exposes the song revealing the heartbreak that must have inspired it.

The influential Austin radio station KUTX has called Gruen “the standard bearer of the new folk scene.” He has opened for Alejandro Escovedo and the Avett Brothers among others and will be appearing on Jesse Malin’s series The Fine Art of Self Distancing on October 29 and will perform a full set via Rockwood Music Hall in New York that night.

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