Jess Klein is an artist who has been performing for over two decades and she has released 11 albums. Her newest release, partially funded through Kickstarter, is her first in five years and explores fundamental changes in her personal life as well as being a state of the nation address.
After marrying fellow songwriter Mike June, the singer songwriter recently moved from a well-established musical base in Austin, Texas to the uncharted territory of Hillsborough in rural North Carolina.
“This group of songs,” Klein says “are a time capsule of everything I've been feeling about our country, finding my place in a new reality, wanting to take responsibility for my role in the world. I'm trying to express that learning curve and respect the struggles of the people who have gone before.”
One other significant change to Klein's creative life was a physical one after she developed a Repetitive Strain Injury. This made it painful to play guitar or to write for long periods of time. As a result, the support and collaboration of NC producer Mark Simonsen, engineer Thom Canova and other musicians proved invaluable.
The album was originally planned as being something stripped down and raw but in the event the sound is richer and more nuanced. For example, Simonsen composed string quartet parts for Kid and In Dreams.
The ten songs are light on politics yet rich in humanity. In them, Klein boldly sets out to express how and why it is crucial to try to maintain hopefulness in America right now.
In this respect, New Thanksgiving Feast feels like the album's defining statement. This wide-ranging song was initially inspired by the non-violent actions of Native American pipeline protestors but also reflects on what Klein sees as the deep spiritual wounds affecting her country. The lyrics ask what lessons white Americans can learn from the example of these protests while celebrating the racial and cultural diversity that lie at the roots of the nation.
In contrast to this stirring anthem, not all, including yours truly, will find the same solace in God as the singer so are likely to be left unmoved by the prayers in the closing tune, I Hear Love.
Fortunately, Klein doesn't put all her faith in a higher power so her intelligent and compassionate songs should also remind us that more connects us than divides us and that bridges are preferable to barriers.
Jess Klein's website