Jess Klein

Strawberry Lover

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On her third album (actually her fifth, but the first two were self-released and long out of print), singer/songwriter Jess Klein adds a dash more pop and polish to the sweetly soulful formula of her previous discs. On 2005's Strawberry Lover, producer and former Mary Lou Lord guitarist Marc Copely wisely puts Klein's voice front and center, while also letting his tight and emphatic studio band (with Copely himself on guitar) give the songs a firmer and hookier edge, putting less folk and more rock into Klein's tunes. But Copely's production also serves the material well, and Klein's voice -- at its best sounding like the youthful middle ground between Emmylou Harris and Maria McKee -- responds well to these surroundings. With melodic accents that suggest she's been listening to a lot of classic R&B and '60s pop, Klein's tales of love both good and bad hit a fine grace note between passion and craft, and she offers just enough interesting changeups (such as the sexy reggae grove of "Soda Water" and the subtle martial undertow of "Ribbons") to give the set a compelling texture. Strawberry Lover is a solid and compelling record from an artist who continues to grow with each new album.

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