Friday, February 4, 2005
Boston Globe - After a time of rediscovery, Klein returns to the spotlight
By Ken Capobianco, Globe Correspondent
When she put out her first major independent record, ''Draw Them Near," on Rykodisc in 2000, Jess Klein appeared to be on the verge of breaking out of the highly competitive Boston singer-songwriter scene and onto the national stage. The record showcased her sharp writing and vivid, seductive vocals, and it was both artistically sound and radio-ready. Klein clearly was the whole package and seemingly a can't-miss item.
And then, well, she kind of disappeared. She never got the proper attention from either her label or the radio, and that spells trouble for anyone's career. Over the past four years, Klein has not only flown under the radar, she's pretty much fallen off the screen.
Until now. Thankfully, after a period of retrenchment, Klein, quite simply one of the most gifted performers this area has produced, is back with a sparkling new record, ''Strawberry Lover" (again on Rykodisc), and major plans to tour. If this doesn't get her noticed, nothing ever will.
''I needed time to get away and to get past the expectations others had of me and try to find out just what kind of songwriter I wanted to be," Klein says. She adds that some of the delay in cutting a new album had to do with record-company red tape, but mostly it was a matter of getting her house in order.
''What I wanted to do was to rediscover the songs I first listened to and get in touch with what I thought were the special qualities of that music," she says. ''I don't think that what I was doing really represented and reflected a lot of what was buried deep within me and the musical values I really cherished. I had to separate myself from the singer-songwriter I was perceived to be and what was really at the heart of why I do what I do."
The 31-year-old artist has made a CD that is clearly influenced by R&B, girl-group pop, and soul-based rock. The songs on ''Strawberry Lover" all deal with primal emotions and work together as a song cycle on love, anger, and the yearning for innocence and grace. Throughout, Klein's singing is bold and colorful as she expresses complex feelings and situations with economy and style. Her production with Marc Copely has a warm, organic feel that's as direct and potent as her writing.
''I found that a lot of what I was writing after the last record just wasn't very real," Klein says. ''I didn't like the songs, and when Marc heard them, he wasn't high on them, either. So I decided to lock myself in a room for a week and write, and this is what came out. I had to strip away the pretenses, go back to the gut level and find out what was at the core of my being."
One of the records she says was a blueprint is Bruce Springsteen's ''Darkness on the Edge of Town."
''It's all there," Klein says. ''The emotions are deep and raw, it's melodic, there's a great backbeat, and the themes are universal in their humanity. There's so much to draw from it, and you hear different things when you go back and listen to it."
''Jess is different because she is able to express some seemingly personal things in a completely accessible and universal way," says Dana Marshall, program and music director for WXRV-FM (92.5) in Haverhill. ''With her voice, you know a Jess Klein song immediately when you hear it. You can't say that about everyone."
Klein, who lived in Boston for more than eight years, moved to Brooklyn last summer when she decided to record her new CD in New York. ''The Boston songwriter scene is so great, and I will miss it because it was so nurturing. People really want to hear the lyrics, and they pay attention to the craft behind each song," she says. ''It's a genuine community, and that makes a difference. But I needed a new challenge and new stimuli."
What this year has in store for her is anyone's guess. She's still on an indie label with a tight budget, and her music doesn't quite lend itself to the ears that have anointed Usher and J.Lo as icons. But she's determined to push on.
''You know, the other day, I was driving and I happened to listen to 'Purple Rain,' " she says with a laugh. ''And I thought there was just something so beautiful and spiritual about it. Prince was giving so much love and asking someone to bask in the glow that was coming off of him. And that's the power of music. . . . It's a venue for a great spiritual experience, and if you let your ego out of the way and allow yourself just to give in to the music, you can be transformed."
Source: Boston Globe