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Happy Hosting, Happy New Year - Rob Ellen
What is it about the old South, the Confederate States of yore, that makes them the source of so much romanticism, even for us on the far side of the pond? Whatever it may be – and quite possibly it is, at root, that new things have always happened somewhere else, it seems, ever since the end of the Civil War – we outsiders are only too happy to load our view of the south with all sorts of romantic imagery, and southerners are only too happy to play the game. Adam Klein hails from Athens, Georgia and this new album is suffused with the kind of longing and nostalgia that can easily seem inherently southern; furthermore, with electric guitars to the fore he has embraced the new paradigm of Southern rock trailblazed by the likes of The Drive-by Truckers and Jason Isbell. This album springs from his work with what appears to be his first ever touring band, and there’s a wonderfully big, dramatic feel to this album that suggests he’s just delighted to emerge from his singer-songwriter chrysalis and become a magnificently colourful rock butterfly.
Actually, you can ride along on the music and the rich, dense production here without ever worrying too much what the songs are about. The electric guitar parts from Bronson Tew and, in particular, Crash Cason, have a magnificently understated intensity and I’d go so far as to say that the guitar solo on Goodnight Nobody from Mr Cason is the best bit of guitar work I’ve heard this year. There’s a delicacy to his touch which is a wonder to listen to, and I’m sure going to be looking out for his name in the future. Overall, the production is built around the vocal performance of the main man, and rightly so; though it’s not the strongest voice, he has a sweet, yearning quality to his singing that‘s really attractive. More than that, there’s an almost naïve sincerity to his style: no edge, no attitude, just a wide-eyed enthusiasm for all the wonders the world has to offer. Even with his voice at centre stage, though, Adam and his co-producer Bronson Tew have put everything at the service of making something with atmosphere, and in that they have succeeded wonderfully. A big brass section here, some intense Hammond organ there – it all fits together nicely, and can embrace the sweet, light bounce of Where Our Love Is as easily as the swelling drama of Goodnight Nobody.
Lyrically, there is a fair bit of talk of leaving and returning, of feeling the pull of the road and then the longing for home. A couple of songs are said to be about Elvis and the dark side of the fame he endured; in a way, that’s a different take on the same dichotomy, the lure of fame against the longing for the simplicity of your old life. For all that I’ve highlighted the very Southern atmosphere of this album, though, something else really stands out for me; two or three times I hear echoes of Nels Andrews wonderful album Sunday Shoes. I could have thought I was imagining it, but then Adam Klein pops up with a song called Jesse’s Mind; this is a song about Jesse James’ mother which just happens to directly quote a line from Nels’ song, Jesse’s Mom, a song that was actually about something else. It’s neat, and it makes me smile each time I hear it. As for that bloke’s chorus singing out the end of Where Our Love Is – well it sounds remarkably like something on Nels Andrews’ most recent album, Scrimshaw. Maybe that really is coincidence. Whatever, it’s just one more thing to enjoy on an immensely accomplished record, certainly amongst my favourites from this year (so far!). Check out the video below - and then listen to the album version and see what a production job can do to a song!
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