Sunday night and Dublin city has settled into a weekend wind-down. At the DC Club we are looking forward to the return of the very talented Jess Klein to our shores after a 5-year absence. If you ever need a way to chase away the weekend blues then live music can always provide an answer and in the company of Jess Klein there is no better sanctuary.
Blessed with an emotive and powerful voice, Jess plays a set that includes a number of new songs from her next album, including My Own Beating Heart, Back To My Green, Blair Mountain and Ginny. It is always a risk to include new material that is unfamiliar to an audience but Jess has such a natural stage presence that she has no difficulty integrating the songs into the body of the overall performance.
A very adept guitar player, she displays some lovely touches during old favourites such as Riverview, Travellin’ Woman, Soda Water, Shonalee and Little White Dove. Sadly, the audience is small in number but the honesty and insight of the performance has everyone lapping up each note and nuance. Tougher Than I Seem is another new song and seems to frame the arc of her career across nine excellent and highly recommended releases. The journey of a professional musician is never a smooth road and Jess has seen all sides of an industry that can often be more cruel than kind. However, irrespective of timing and getting the right breaks, talent will always find an outlet and there is a sense of being in the presence of real craft as we witness her many gifts.
Ireland is an old song that is an obvious inclusion for her only Irish date. There follows a spoken word reading, titled Chicken Soup, that chronicles the life of her Grandmother in her coming to America and raising a family with dignity and pride. The catalyst for this was an attack on a Jewish Cemetery where a number of graves were vandalised, including her grandparents, and the poem is aimed at the perpetrators of such evil actions. It is a really moving performance and honours the struggle that her grandparents had in building a new life and providing a legacy for those who come after.
Mike June joins Jess onstage for the final six numbers and his lead acoustic playing is quite something as he weaves patterns around the fine rhythm playing of Jess. The encore is a poignant version of Beautiful Child, written for her Father and is followed by a real rock-out version of Atlantic City to mark the recent birthday of the Boss.
Jess Klein walks a quiet road when it comes to media recognition. Where others may get the attention and plaudits, she displays an admirable ability to manage her own career and works hard to keep a presence that is away from the shadows and looking into the light. Her wistful delivery and vocal tone blend together with her guitar to capture the listener in acknowledging such an accomplished talent. She is worthy of greater recognition and such artists need to be acknowledged, celebrated and given greater support. Hopefully she can return in the not too distant future when a proper string of Irish dates can be offered to her.
Now married to her fellow travelling musician, Mike June, she joins him on stage during his opening set and sings back-up vocals on a few numbers. Mike played a fine support set of songs from his catalogue, including Election Day, I’ve Got the Darkness, Cotton Fields, Poor Man’s Bible and Hard Times. He has a confident stage presence and is a fine musician; a perfect foil for Jess and an interesting talent in his own right.
Review by Paul McGee Photograph by Paul Dolan