Jeff Klein, an Austin-based singer/songwriter, is a rough-throated melancholy tough guy who sees the world through seemingly unforgiving and yet vulnerable eyes. It would be easy to make comparisons to an entire host of people to reference his sound, but it would also be pointless because the beauty of Everybody Loves a Winner is encountering it raw. Many of the current generation of 30-something singer/songwriters may be checkpoints for Klein, and he has something to learn about crafting his songs into tighter constructions that are memorable in their own right, piece by piece, but maybe he doesn't give a damn. And that's fine, because as an album, Everybody Loves a Winner, produced by Matthew Ryan and starring guests such as Patty Griffin, Will Sexton, and Jon Dee Graham, is a small dark movie that seems to spiral on into something that has melody, dissonance, noise, sweetness, a gray light at the end of the title, and a tenderness masked only slightly by Klein's tough-guy pose on the back of the CD booklet. Love songs such as "I Love You Sweet Emily" are turned and twisted in their honesty and grief with acoustic guitars rolling out under slippery, barely present drum loops and strings as Klein offers weakly yet brazenly honestly, "I've got a hunger as big as my eyes/And a promise I'll never keep/I know I shouldn't be out here/Cause no one loves you more than me/I don't think I'm coming home tonight/I'm sorry, sweet Emily/And all of your friends are like angels/Role models I'll never be/The habits they kick like booze and cigarettes/This thing's much bigger than me." The resignation in his voice isn't surrender, just acceptance, and is all the more chilling for it. Underlining this notion are the melodic keyboards and strummed acoustics on "Another Breakdown," and the confessional wasted truth of "Five Good Reasons." A snare sets the pace as a small string section, keyboards, and a lonely six string coax Klein's roughshod truth and grace out from the cavity of his heart: "Welcome to the house that lives in side of me/We've got more dust inside these rooms than there is room to breathe/Patience left before I had patience left to leave/Pictures tell a thousand words of lies and memories/I've got five good reason why I never sleep at home/And I got four more people telling me that I am wrong/And I've got three more wishes, god I wish that I was gone/And I've got two more fears/And I fear that I am one...." Yeah, this is rough stuff that is so sweet and gentle to listen to it becomes more harrowing and sadly beautiful with each passing moment. Everybody Loves a Winner is razor blade truth for midnight epiphanies. Get it; you'll learn something.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek