If you've seen a band playing in a bar in the Midwest anytime after 1990, there's a reasonable chance you've seen Rob Klajda on-stage. Klajda is a talented multi-instrumentalist and songwriter best known as the founder of the hell-raising Celtic rock band the Lash, and he's played with bands of all shapes, styles, and sizes over the years, honing his chops on a variety of fretted instruments. After over two decades of sharing the stage with others, Klajda has made his belated solo debut with the album Hopening. Given his long résumé, one might reasonably expect Hopening to sound like the anonymous work of a capable journeyman, but thankfully that’s not the case, as Klajda has plenty of distinctive stuff up his sleeve. He's a strong vocalist, one who can sing introspective acoustic numbers and full-on rockers with equal presence and emotional force, and he's a lyricist whose point of view is broad, well-detailed, and full of pointed observations, memorable characters, and hard-won wisdom. From the sly shuffle of "Anyway" and the pedal steel-fueled stride of "River Town" to the lean, wiry rock of "Trust" and the rootsy barroom snap of "Another Night in the Underground," Klajda has forged a point of view that's eclectic but coherent at the same time, and he's brought along some gifted friends to help, including guitarist Drew Howard, keyboard and accordion man Mike Lynch, and vocalists Jen Sygit and Rachael Davis. Plenty of utility men have chops and dedication, but they don't always have a perspective that sets them apart; Klajda does, and Hopening is a diverse, satisfying slice of roots rock that suggests this guy is fully capable of handling the spotlight on his own.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming