Monday, January 15, 2007
Blooming good... Jess Klein - 'City Garden' - Gigwise.com
In 2007, mention the words 'talent contest' and an unfortunate number of people will probably reminisce about a past winner of that ?X-Idol-Factor-Stars? programme. Although it?s hard to remember, things haven?t always been played out in the Saturday Night TV spotlight? just ask New Yorker Jess Klein. When Klein won the Telluride Troubadour Song writing Contest, talent was still very much the operative word and the contestants fought for critical acclaim as opposed to beating Take That to the Christmas Number One. _Thankfully, however, genuine talent stands the test of time, and all these years on from her triumph Jess Klein?s still making music ? and it?s good, very good in fact.
Since she won the Telluride Troubador Songwriting Contest Jess Klein has always been a flower threatening to blossom. From the critically acclaimed country-folk rock of her early albums (Wishes Well Disguised and Draw Them Near) to her belated 2005 solo follow up (Strawberry Lover), Klein has continued to grow from a wild seed into an accomplished singer/songwriter ? both in the studio and on the live stage. Although it?s been a long time coming, with City Garden, she?s finally blossomed.
Ironically, it?s taken a change of direction sound-wise to make City Garden her most poignant release to date - and it?s not a long wait to hear why. As the albums opener, ?Blood, Sweat, Tears,? unravels, the familiar country chords of her previous work are coupled with a pale, Blues riff that ripples underneath the surface. It?s a combination that?s used throughout the record, as Klein comes to terms with a self-confessed ?Hard Point? in her life using the laid bare, trademark simplicity of the Blues - most notably on the soft and brittle sounding, ?All I Ever Had,? which was the building block for the whole album. It?s not all sombre ballads, however, not at all. ?Shell & Shore,? features a permutation of a Blues funk-beat and a rousing electrical chorus, while the albums highlight, ?Real Life Love,? is a frenetic electric number, where the witty lyrics, ?Soldier terrified, governors bored / Dying to settle some billionaires score,? seem as much political as they are a personal tale that love shouldn?t come at a cost.
Klein has created an album where the emotive highs and lows of the music are as vivid as the lyrical content. Although this keeps the music from sounding the same, at times, lyrically City Garden feels so intensely personal that it feels uncomfortably reminiscent of eavesdropping on a conversation. In the acoustic ballad, ?Swimming Pool,? Klein?s metaphor, ?You are my Swimming Pool/ A World that I can swim in,? sounds charming but also brutally intimate.
Although, in context, City Garden seems more of a voyage of discovery for Klein than it is for the listener, from start to finish it feels like a privilege to be allowed along on the journey. Blooming good.