A handful of things led me to believe that Adam Klein played country music: the publishing company (Broken Hills Songs), the label (Cowboy Angel Music), the instrumentation (pedal steel and fiddle amongst others). I was quite taken aback as St. Paul and then Restless Soul kicked off Distant Music, for the music itself barely brushed country except maybe in the straits of Ramblin' Jack Elliott or along the isthmus of Tom Rush. Throw as much pedal steel and fiddle into the mix as you want, folk is folk and Adam Klein is folk in both essence and feel.
Klein has a poet's soul and, as a result, the main instrument is voice. Klein's is hardly perfect merely as voice, but combined with words and music it suffices nicely. His songs could be told as much as sung, the words carrying equal value with the music. And there is the rub. The effectiveness of those words depend upon the song. When they work, they work very well. When they don't—well, this is Klein's first effort and he will get there. Luckily, they work more than not and that means that as lyricist, he is no washout and might even have a great future ahead of him.
His musical landscape is mostly the heart and the road, two well-worn subjects, and on the whole he makes it work. Still, he has that voice which would be more at home with politics and as I hear that wailing harmonica on the too few tracks on which it was used, I cannot help but long for the step back towards the folkies of the mid-60s—music more attuned to Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan than the folkies of today. Then again, when he steps away from that it is more than passable, as on Time and Walkin', where he utilizes excellent and minimal background instruments and vocals.
Beyond the music itself, the only negative here is a percussive effect on some of the acoustic rhythm guitar tracks which might have been avoided with a different mike or some other engineering decision or feat. The positives are four in number and they are huge—the backup band. Sparse and at times sounding like they were recorded in a different room or even a different state, the sound is so clean, they hit the notes with a studied proficiency which is not at all antiseptic. They get the music and put their marks on each track. Only a musician would appreciate how really good they are here.
The packaging itself is A-1. The CD comes in a digi-pak with split cover flap in which is placed a nicely done booklet containing album info and lyrics.
All in all, this is a pretty darn good first effort, sports fans. This review may sound a bit harsh, but with a musician like Adam Klein, I see a future way beyond that produced here. Some reviews are about the music and some are more about the musician. This one is about the musician because I have no doubt that we will be hearing more from him again in the very near future.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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