Thursday, November 11, 2010

DA’s spokesman sings a different tune — bluegrass!

By Gersh Kuntzman

By day, Jonah Bruno is the spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes. By night, he plays a banjo and sings bluegrass songs about being the spokesman for Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

In what might be the most incongruous political double life since our crime-busting governor turned out to be a lawbreaker himself, Bruno pursues an artistic career — in hillbilly music, no less — in his off hours from informing the public of his boss’s busts, convictions and sentences.

Bruno’s new album — aptly named “Spokesman” — makes it clear how much the personal and the political are merged in this 36-year-old’s life.

The disc opens with “23 Years,” a tune based on an actual murder case (though in Queens) involving a woman who kills her husband after two decades of abuse. And the highlight of the record is “No Comment,” about a politician who calls a press conference only to issue a “No comment,” a phrase he keeps repeating, even as the ensuing “Commentgate” scandal consumes him.

“One thing: That song is not about Hynes,” said Bruno, who lives in Clinton Hill. “Our office almost never issues a ‘No comment.’ ”

Other tunes include vaguely political songs such as “Poverty Line” and “The Money Went.” And a classic of the bluegrass genre — “High and Lonesome” — also has a law enforcement angle. The title, of course, refers to the “high and lonesome sound” of country music, but in Bruno’s version, the narrator sings about how he self-medicates after his girlfriend dumps him.

“I get high when I’m lonesome/Try to get you off my mind,” he sings.

Bruno didn’t sing the lyric on that number, but not because he worried about a random drug test if Hynes heard it.
“I didn’t sing ‘High and Lonesome’ because I’m not that strong a singer!” he said.

Whatever vocal skills he claims to lack, Bruno’s reedy voice is certainly solid on the other songs, a tiny twang of Kentucky slipping into his upstate New York accent. And the band is very tight, thanks to great mandolin work by Michael Pasternak and fiddle by Sarah Alden.

Bruno’s quintet will perform at the most logical place — Jalopy — on Nov. 12, as part of a record-release party that will also feature Baby Soda.

“It’ll be a great night,” he said. “But don’t look for the DA.”

Jonah Bruno and his band at Jalopy [315 Columbia St. between Hamilton Avenue and Woodhull Street in Red Hook, (718) 395-3214], Nov. 12, 9 pm. For info, visit


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