Jess Klein - Wishes Well Disguised

Wishes Well Disguised

Jess Klein


Motherlode Records
PO Box 380647
Cambridge, MA 02238

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange by
Jonathan Colcord

Jess Klein's latest recording is proof that she possesses two rare gifts - the ability to craft wonderfully dark and mysterious lyrics, and a voice that all but defies description. She uses that voice in the lead-off track Angelina to set apart the narration: one moment telling the tale from one perspective, and the next shifting vocally and lyrically to the viewpoint of an observer. Klein's lyricism is complex and requires repeated listening to feel the full force of her words. From Angelina she writes:

you can imagine the pressure, being a good girl like me
It's just like being a good boy, with no woman's breast from which you pretend to wean.

Revival is also the first of many of Klein's songs to visit an underlying religious theme:
they're out at Higgins' barn bartering with the bible
and I'm at the washbasin chopping my hair off and singing revival.

Klein's style easily switches from gentle to brash one moment, reminding you of such phenomenal women as Iris Dement, or Gillian Welch, and the next rocketing into something more akin to Ani DiFranco. There are truly no accurate descriptions to demonstrate Klein's gift. She seems somehow rooted in dustbowl poetics, but will quickly turn and place you somewhere else entirely. Lyrically she will amaze you; musically she will rock you. All works are originial with the exception of the old song Another Man Done Gone. Klein's interesting metaphors are also worth mentioning such as in Solid Ground:

well what is it with the tin man?
he never learned his lesson in Oz
he says look, I have a heart now
lay down your dollar, I will join your little cause,

or with Soldier, which opens with
I walked down to the street, with my helmet in my hand
I had places to be, but they didn't seem so grand
and my medals of honor, I left them in your neighbor's trash
maybe some other kid can make good on them at last.

Perhaps the finest track and the one certain to give Klein the exposure she deserves is Romeo, a song also appearing on the recent Signature Sounds benefit release for the Respond shelter of Boston. It is the type of song you can't get out of your head:

Oh Romeo, I can't explain this weight upon my chest
that you'd live to tell the story to a girl who's left for less
I have never cried for thinking Verona was not mine
why am I pacing through her dusty streets?
I pray there is not tragedy this time.

Klein's lyrical sophistication is far greater than her years. She makes an interesting allusion to age and maturity in Strong Enough, a song co-written with Jabe Beyer: "Cause I'm only 23, a virtual baby, a gypsy once told me I've got a very old soul." She certainly does.

Song List:

  • Angelina
  • The Cloud Song
  • Solid Ground
  • The Wading Pool
  • Romeo
  • Pressure
  • No One Would Believe Me
  • Favorite Shade Of Blue
  • Soldier
  • Strong Enough
  • Enough Room For The Sun
  • Another Man Done Gone

All songs by Jess Klein except as noted.

Edited by Roberta B. Schwartz (

Copyright 1999, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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