With her third album, Draw Them Near (Slow River/Rykodisc), Boston singer-songwriter Jess Klein has evolved from coffeehouse fixture--she's a member of the Voices on the Verge klatch, along with former Chicagoan Rose Polenzani--to gentle roots rocker, surrounding herself with a batch of crack Nashville musicians that includes guitarist Will Kimbrough, pop-savvy bassist Brad Jones, and Wilco drummer Ken Coomer. The 26-year-old's hooks are plenty tuneful and her lyrics are good enough (most of her narratives feature characters struggling to find their way after losing or giving up on love, so it's kind of startling when she launches into "I Sure Would," a feverish blues-driven burner that recalls Lucinda Williams in its unequivocal expression of lust). But it's her voice that makes her songs stick. Though it's not technically remarkable--she doesn't do many tricks, and the limits of her range are revealed as she works through the fat Stax-style soul piece "Love Is Where You Find It"--she shapes her phrases with no sharp edges and strikes an enchanting balance between grit and honey when she's safely in her comfort zone. Although she's touring in support of this fine band recording, Klein will return to the folkie format here, accompanied only by electric guitarist Austin Nevins. Monday, November 13, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Andriana Meyer.