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Jess Klein
Learning Faith

Jess Klein — Learning Faith (Jun 24, 2014)

            Jess Klein — Learning Faith 
♠   Witty, soulful, nomadic singer–songwriter’s indie folk earned underground critical raves in ’00s.
♠   Songwriter Says: “So much in life is uncertain and yet I feel the most alive when I make a conscious choice to move toward what scares me. My gut instinct is often to take a risk. I’ve come to see any choice to act on this instinct — artistically or otherwise–as an act of faith. This song was the first I wrote for the album and also laid out the concept for the whole album.”
♠   Jess říká: “Tolik věcí  v životě je nejistých..., a přesto se cítím nejvíc vitální, když udělám vědomou volbu, zaměřenou k tomu, co mě děsí. Můj instinkt je často namířen směrem k risku. Ve svobodě výběru vidím výhodu jednat v souladu s tímto instinktem — umělecky či jinak, jakožto aktem víry. Píseň Learning Faith byla první, kterou jsem napsala pro album a ta položila základ celému albu.”
Born: 1974 in Rochester, NY
Location: Austin, Texas, U.S.
Album release: Jun 24, 2014
Record Label: Motherlode
Duration:     41:04
01 Learning Faith     4:51
02 So Fucking Cool     2:59
03 If There's a God     3:22
04 Surrender     4:21
05 Loving You     3:04
06 Wish     4:17
07 Dear God     4:45
08 Only the Blues     4:11
09 Open Road     4:48
10 Long Way Down     4:26
2014 Jess Klein
♠   After last year’s largely restrained, Americana–tinged and reflective Behind a Veil, the New York–born, Austin–based singer–songwriter Jess Klein returns to the gutsier, punchy and often downright rock ‘n’ roll style of 2007’s City Garden for her ninth studio album Learning Faith.
♠   There’s an edginess that runs throughout, established from the outset with the swampy blues, slide guitar title track opener, the first song written for the album and one which underpins its sense of deternination and acting on instinct as she sings “I remember looking off of that cliff at how the bridge would swing each time the wind would shift and yet I felt the need to grip the guardrails in my palms, the need to move forward, the need to carry on”. Were there any doubts about Klein’s self–belief confidence, then they’ll be blown away by the stomping, bass throbbing in your face punked–up self–declamatory So Fucking Cool which reimagines Lucinda Williams as Joan Jett.
♠   If you want more gustiness, look no further than the slow, grinding sparse swampiness of Only The Blues, a celebration of the genre’s ability to carry the weight of your world on its shoulders and for “three chords and a microphone” to provide a channel to unchain the pain. Elsewhere, in similar muscular vein you’ll find Long Way Down which, with its snarling guitars, has a steady, determined bluesy swagger to mirror lines like “it’s a long way back, it’s a long way down, it’s a long way, won’t get there today, but I won’t be turning around”.
♠   It’s not all musical clenched fists, there’s a softer side to be found in Loving You, an acoustic hymn to optimism (“and so the human race goes on and swears it’s on a road to doom and still I’m moved to sing a song and pull some kind of magic through”) with a melody and tumbling chorus that echo with memories of Patsy Cline. 
♠   The same tenderness is felt on the early Emmylou colours of the simple voice and guitar of the heartbreaking Wish and the pulsing metronome beat of Open Road, though, with the former dealing with an unpredictable abusive dysfunctional father and the latter, about a friend whose life on the road took its toll through the demons to which she was exposed, neither are exactly lyrically upbeat.
♠   If anger is tempered with understanding and sadness here, it’s let off the leash on two connected songs that both feature God in their titles. If There’s A God is a powerful mid–tempo southern swampy blues protest number inspired by her experience of the 5000 people who gathered at the Capitol Building in Austin to protest against Texas Governor Rick Perry’s anti–abortion policies (“if there’s a God, God is gonna rain down hell on you”) while, addressing the same subject, Dear God is a swaggering, march–beat country rocker sung in the voice of a pregnant seventeen–year–old who “tried to see the doctor today but the governor slammed the door right in my face.”
♠   On a collection of knockouts, it would be the album’s standout number were it not for Surrender, a song about letting yourself give in to love, remove the metal plate from over your heart and follow your intuition not your fears which, driven by a steady drum beat and chugging guitar riff and featuring understated organ and a Eurythmics–like electronic voice sample, sees Klein channel her inner Stevie Nicks to soaring, anthemic effect. Not only is it easily one of the best things she’s ever recorded, but this is unquestionably the finest album of her impressive career. :: http://www.folkradio.co.uk/
Artist Biography by Charlotte Dillon
♠   Native New Yorker Jess Klein was in college when she taught herself to play the guitar, using her father's old acoustic. She had already done a little singing and knew how to play the clarinet. In no time at all she was writing songs on her own and performing locally. With some time overseas, and then a move to Boston, MA, Klein turned her full attention toward her musical career. After performing enough to polish her natural skills, Klein recorded her first album, Wishes Well Disguised, in 1998. The debut was independently released and showcases tunes like "The Cloud Song," "Pressure," and "Favorite Shade of Blue." For 2000, Klein put together pop/rock and folk–mixed tracks like "Goodbye, Goodbye," "Little White Dove," "I Tried," and "Love Is Where You Find It," to complete a sophomore release titled Draw Them Near, breaking out under the Slow River Records label. Some of the artists who helped out on the recording were producer George Howard, mixer Paul Q. Kolderie, guitarist Will Kimbrough, drummer Ken Coomer, and bassist Brad Jones. Rykodisc, the influential independent label who distributed Klein's Slow River release, signed her to their main label for her next release, the more polished and accessible Strawberry Lover, which was released in 2005; another notable singer–songwriter from Boston, Marc Copely, served as producer and bandleader. In between recording, Klein spends endless time touring, having performed with popular acts like 10,000 Maniacs, Richard Shindell, and Jill Sobule. :: http://www.allmusic.com/               
You and i had seen the open road
had the nerve to give it one more go
with a car from your old job and my book of songs
a Mexican blanket to cover the guitars
and the faith of those whose race is not run
hey it might get rough out there I know
but we can do this, take my hand lets go
Said you loved to drive through the night
drove us up to Michigan alright
then the old friend you never thought you’d see again
came out in Cleveland, started buying you rounds, you toasted freedom
but your eyes were looking down
I tried to ask “are you alright?”
you didn’t answer, just drove through the night
out on the open road
where long shadows show
and riders pray for the light we know not to be dyin’
the same old friend showed up in three more towns
seemed to turn your old nerve around
somewhere near Buffalo that old car slowed
too much weight, too many miles
I guess you knew something had to go
like a dream your old friend took the wheel
left me by the snowbanks with the pain you wouldn’t feel
Now sometimes I see you around
I can never seem to make a sound
I heard you’re working an office job now
I’m still out here, I don’t always know why
I think about you and it darkens my eyes
but I guess this life still gives me hope
some kind of freedom, some kind of rope
out on the open road where long shadows show
and riders pray for the light we know not to be dyin’
And all us souls wanna turn around
And crawl back underground
but me I’ll head for the light I’ve found or grow old tryin’
you and I had seen the open road
For two years I been walkin’, walkin’ on my feet
because i had a vision, a vision leading me
a vision of a bridge braided out of rope
crossing a great canyon, a bridge made out of hope
I remember looking off of that cliff
at how the bridge would swing each time the wind would shift
and yet i felt the need to grip the guardrails in my palms
the need to move forward, the need to carry on
If I had known what it would take
I would have turned and run away
instead of standing here learning faith, learning to let it fly
instead of standing here learning faith, learning to not ask why
and walkin’ til the day I die
You would not believe how few words there are to say
when you spend your days moving this way
mostly all i’m thinking is the next two foot stretch
and mostly all i’m feelin my toes gripped round the edge
voices say i’m crazy, i know that it’s true
but on the day i close my eyes and bid this world adieu
i will not pray for heaven or fear the fire below
i will simply be asleep with nowhere left to go
♠   Jess Klein says of her new album Learning Faith.  “It’s edgy and brutal, but it was inspired by a genuine love for this world.”
Over a career that spans more than a decade and a half and has won her a devoted worldwide fan base, Klein — who possesses what Mojo magazine calls “one of those voices you want to crawl up close to the speakers to listen to” and a knack for writing songs that the Cape Cod Times has described as “fully realized, finely observed and deeply felt” — has pursued a remarkable creative evolution that’s seen her dig ever deeper for resonant emotional insights, while continuing to refine her eloquently melodic, effortlessly accessible songcraft.  As the New York Times noted, Klein is an artist who “has country roots, but who pushes her songs toward philosophical thoughts.”
♠   Learning Faith — which marks Klein’s third collaboration with veteran producer Mark “Professor Feathers” Addison — boasts ten personally–charged new originals that rank with her most compelling and illuminating work.  Such bracing tunes as “Surrender,” “So Fucking Cool,” “Wish,” “Long Way Down” and “If There’s A God” (which she was inspired to write after protesting in support of State Senator Wendy Davis’ pro–choice 2013 filibuster at the Texas state capitol building) embody the complementary mix of personal fearlessness and musical craftsmanship that define Klein’s music.
♠   “It felt a little different this time,” the artist notes.  “It was the first time that I ever went into a record really feeling that I’d paid my dues, and that now I’m just gonna do and say whatever I want.  I finally feel like I really don’t care what anybody thinks.  That felt huge, and it felt really empowering.  I felt comfortable going as dark as I could, and not feeling like I had to pull back from that.”
♠   “It’s also the first time I’ve started a record with a concept and tried to follow it through,” she explains.  “After I wrote the song ‘Learning Faith,’ that started me thinking about writing a whole album of songs about the process of developing faith — faith in people, faith in the universe, faith in a higher power. I WANTED EACH SONG TO BE ABOUT SOME KIND OF STRUGGLE WITH FAITH, AND ASKING WHAT FAITH REALLY MEANS TO ME.”
♠   “Another thing that’s different for me on this record,” Klein continues, “is that I’m willing to admit that I don’t have the answer.  When you’re starting out as a younger artist, you can getaway without being forced to look at yourself or ask why you’re doing this, and what you can really offer.  As you get older, it starts to feel more urgent, like ‘OK, if I’m gonna drag myself all over the world singing these songs, I’ve got to get out of this what I came here to get.’”
♠   Learning Faith’s rich emotional and musical palette is consistent with the level of commitment that Jess Klein has always brought to her music.  The Rochester, NY native taught herself to play her father’s acoustic guitar in her teens, and began writing songs as a college student in Kingston, Jamaica.  After graduation, she relocated to Boston, where she began performing locally and won acclaim for her self-released debut album Wishes Well Disguised.  The attention helped to win her a deal with the Rykodisc label, for which she recorded the albums Draw Them Near and Strawberry Lover, which were warmly received by critics as well as Klein’s growing audience.  Klein’s growing notoriety led to such milestones as an appearance on TV’s Good Morning America, and a performance for an audience of 70,000 at Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival.
♠   By 2008, when she relocated to the independent–minded musical mecca of Austin, TX, Klein had parted ways with Rykodisc and returned to her D.I.Y. recording roots.  ♠   She continued to stake out brave new lyrical and musical territory on such albums as 2006’s City Garden, 2009’s Bound to Love and 2012’s Behind A Veil, while continuing to tour throughout North America, Europe and Japan.  She also became a beloved presence on her adopted hometown’s music scene, while collaborating with such fellow troubadours as Jon Dee Graham, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Jimmy LaFave, Slaid Cleaves, Will Sexton, Ray Bonneville, Radney Foster, Randy Weeks, Matt the Electrician and John Fullbright.
♠   “This can be a hard job, and it does require a certain amount of faith to continue doing it,” Klein observes, adding, “There have been several points where I’ve questioned my career choice.  But every time I’ve gotten close to feeling defeated, I’ve pulled myself back up and come out of it stronger.  And the more times I choose to keep doing it, the stronger I feel about it, and the stronger I feel about reaching a little deeper and putting everything out on the table.”
♠   “When you’re younger, you don’t totally know who you are yet, and you’re still trying to figure things out.  Now I feel more at ease with who I am and why I do this.  My motivation now for playing music is to connect with people, and to do that by connecting with myself, which is the hardest and scariest part.”
♠   “The reward,” she concludes, “is those moments where all the other bullshit subsides and you have a total, pure connection with the audience, or with just one person.  I feel so blessed to be able to have this connection with people that’s based on something real. That’s what I look for now.”
Website: http://www.jessklein.com/
Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/jessklein
Twitter: https://twitter.com/msjessklein
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jess.klein2
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jesskleinmusic?ref=br_tf
By Doug Freema, Austin Chronicle; Score: ***
:: http://www.austinchronicle.com/music/2014-08-08/crazy-from-the-heat-jess-klein/
MY RURAL RADIO: http://www.myruralradio.com/jess_klein.asp

Jess Klein
Learning Faith