This month’s theme here at Fervor Coulee appears to be “Singer-Songwriters Not Previously Encountered.”
Each have been wonderful—The Waymores, Dana Cooper, Dan Weber, Rob Heath, Jefferson Ross—and I will return to their music. But the artist I’ve been listening to most since mid-March has to be Terry Klein.
Good Luck, Take Care is the Austin-based artist’s third album, and if the other two are anywhere near this quality, I am triply sorry to not have previously heard Klein’s music.
Terry Klein has a substantial, bold singing voice, one that softens when contemplating the truths of life from a daughter’s eyes (“Does The Fish Feel the Knife”) or when considering lost experiences (“What You Lose Along The Way.”) He does remind me of others, and only in the best ways.
Klein’s method fits comfortably with those of us who have been raised on the classic songwriters of the 70s and 80s. He delivers “Salt,” one of the album’s signature pieces, in a near speaking-song voice, reminiscent of Clark’s “The Dark.” When Klein boldly sings, “It’s not so much the bitter tears, as the salt they leave behind” one strongly feels that the poetry captured may have been borrowed from a Clark notebook.
We are further reminded of Clark’s manner within the delicately worded “The Goldfinch,” an imagining of Fabritius’s painting. Like Otis Gibbs, Klein makes us invest in a larger-than-life character (“The Ballad of Dick Trickle”) we might never had encountered if not for his song. If a song about a stockcar driver reminds us of Gibbs’ styling, additional songs bring to mind the songs of Chris Knight, especially “The Woman Who Was Lost in the Flood” and “Cheryl.”
Given opportunity to escape abuse, the protagonist of “The Woman Who Was Lost in the Flood” finds a new life in what is an ideally structured song, one that doesn’t leave us wanting so much as it makes the listener desire to further develop a relationship. On the other hand, “Cheryl” doesn’t work out for anyone.
I reference Clark, Gibbs, and Knight to provide context for a singer and songwriter whose album very much impresses me. While there are moments that bring to mind names with whom some readers may be more familiar (let’s not miss Ray Wylie Hubbard [“60 in a 75”] while we’re at it), Terry Klein impresses in his own right. These are his songs, and whether they remind us of another’s (or several others’) work, they each stand independent of influence, real or imagined.
Working in Nashville with Thomm Jutz (Is Jutz the next Will Kimbrough, seemingly associated with half the good Americana albums I am hearing this year?) Good Luck, Take Care is quite special without outside comparisons. Jutz handles electric guitar parts that frequently amp up the album’s intensity (“Salinas,” “60 in a 75”) with Lynn Williams (there he is again!) on drums and Tim Marks on bass. Scotty Sanders contributes pedal steel and Tammy Rogers fiddle and mandolin. Klein sings as if he couldn’t be happier doing anything else, whether the song itself is dark or light.
And most of the songs have considerable darkness, just as we desire in our country-ish roots music. Good Luck, Take Care is a massively impressive outing for Terry Klein.