On first listen – especially if you weren’t paying attention – you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is an album full of fluffy clouds, rainbows, optimism and sunshine all played out by a bright female voice and set against the back drop of Hippy-inspired dreams of unrealistic goals where people greet each other kindly and skip happily through the long grass of the world.
You’d be partially right.
Dig a little deeper and you get the feeling that all is not well in the world of singer/songwriter Jess Klein, it’s understandable that the worlds politics bears heavily on the shoulders of the creative, we all watch the news reports and read the internet articles of separation, walls and division and this album is choc-full of songs that address current matters.
If you need a genre to help you imagine what kind of thing to expect here, I’d class it as country-folk, there are the instruments from country but the conscience of folk with its history of protest songs.
Yes, there is optimism and sunshine, surely omitting these ingredients from the recipe would push the album into darker territories, but there is also a knowing eye being cast across the subjects tackled (most notably the Native American people protesting the construction of a pipeline across the land on ‘New Thanksgiving Feast’). There is a maturity throughout the album and moments of retrospect, ‘Tougher Than I Seem’ and ‘Kid’ find an artist looking inwards and backwards, passing on knowledge and experience and not being afraid to recognise the world isn’t exactly where they want it but also understanding that sometimes the most effective voice is the one that is calm, understanding and intelligent.
Production wise the album is a showcase for Klein’s voice, I would have liked to have heard the bass being more prominent, sometimes the mix can feel a little treble-dominant, but it’s recorded so nicely that the instruments come through so cleanly it feels like you were present at the recording. Final track ‘I Hear Love’ gives the listener the chance to hear Klein go through the range of her voice, her emotion plays out well and gives the songs gravitas, ‘Gates of Hell’ gives you the opportunity to hear the guitar so crisp, each note pinging it’s way through the speakers, you can almost hear the wooden grain flex and shake with the sound waves, it’s obvious a lot of time was spent getting the individual instruments sounding correct.
It took me a few listens to really get into the album, but I like it, there seems to be a wave of strong female singer/songwriters passing my way of late, each with a different voice and style but, more importantly, with a different way of saying things.