Jonnie Tru: Truisms

Paul Whyte

I really couldn’t tell you how many albums I’ve made the effort to try to review. Typically, when I receive an album in the mail, aside from the CD itself, a piece of paper with a press release and artist bio is pretty standard. Occasionally I’ll get a sticker or maybe even a band pin (I collect band pins so I always enjoy that). I do prefer getting a physical copy of an album, although going off of a download isn’t uncommon. It weirdly felt like Christmas getting a large box in the mail.
In the case of Jonnie Tru, a musician out of Ashland, he sent a little more than usual. A card board box measuring approximately 18” x 24”, and 3” deep contained a large handwritten note, or rather dozens of random thoughts. Three of his CDs titled “Truisms”, ten download cards and a DVD/Book package titled “How Music and Mathematics Relate” were included, not to mention a token “Good For One Tap Beer” at The Snug located in Washburn, WI, my hometown.
I’ll have to say I was expecting singer-songwriter material here. In a way it’s kind of that, but not in any real conventional sense. If I were to make a comparison to more known music, I’d have to say that Ween and Frank Zappa would come the closest and fans of those artists might like this material. I could see how many who mostly follow “serious music” might not appreciate it, but in the full spectrum of music, we should all be aware that bands like The Beatles and Pink Floyd have thrown in touches that resemble madness and lunacy here and there in some of their songs. Like the way the CD was shipped, it is unexpected and unusual. Maybe I’m not like most people, but I really like listening to something different that doesn’t feel like something I’ve listened to a hundred times before. Tru obviously has a wacky personality and doesn’t try to be anything other than truly original with his music.  
With the first track, “Get Up and Dance,” I had to first double check to make sure I didn’t accidentally click on one of the Fever Dream albums I have. The beats are mixed with electronic and hand drums. The title of the song says it all. The vocals are manipulated with a vocoder or some sort of pitch shift and there is a bassy synth holding down the song. So, not really what I was expecting. Tru telling the listener to “get up and dance” sets the tone for this rather odd album.
With the next track, it just gets weirder, but in a good way. I can’t say I’ve ever really heard a song about a marriage, let alone a lesbian marriage. The track “Girlie Marriage” is a psychedelic folk song that I really wonder what the women getting married think about it. Again, there’s a lot of vocal manipulation from digital delay to pitch shifting.
This really out there album also includes the song “Shroom,” and yes, it is about psychedelic mushrooms. The happy synth piano parts mixed with lyrics that definitely relate to a shroom trip are fascinating, humorous and just something that I just don’t hear every day. It falls in an area where I’m thinking “what the hell is this?” and “this is actually good because I haven’t been this entertained by someone’s music this much in awhile.” The harmonica parts offset the seemingly programed chords. That and some ramblings make the song not only believable, but pretty great.
The track “Lover Boy” is, as far as I can tell, a hilariously satirical pop song. “You’ve got me baby,” sings Tru. “And we’ll dance dance and we’ll have a good time/and maybe we’ll live a long time/and maybe we’ll have little kids/and maybe I’ll even get a job…” Tru’s sense of humor makes up for some of the randomness on the album. I have to put Wesley Willis out there as far as music that reminds of this. And no, I’m not kidding, I’m just giving my honest opinion of explaining this material.
The track “Out on My Ear” is a broken hip-hop track or maybe I should say free verse. “And I said to myself, at least I’m free/I’m free to die, and no one would cry…I’m free to think about why I’m free.” As weird as the music is, it does in a way make sense. It delves into a part of how really ridiculous life is in certain areas and I can’t slam anyone for that.
So, Jonnie Tru doesn’t have much of an online presence although he does have a CD Baby account ( I’m going to leave the CDs and download cards at Electric Fetus or maybe Pizza Luce’ in downtown Duluth. If you really want to hear something different, real, and slightly humorous, then pick it up. I’m unsure if I’ve ever met Tru in person, but from what I’ve gathered he’s a character and would probably be the highlight of any open mic he attended. I don’t really have any suggestions on what he should do different because he’s different enough as it is.  


Paul Whyte

A South Shore native and University of Wisconsin-Superior journalism graduate. Lifelong musician, and former open mic host. Passionate about the music scene and politics.

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