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Jess Klein | Strawberry Lover (Ryko)
To be likened to Meat Loaf is not, I'd hazard a guess, an ambition of many singers. It's not that Ms Klein looks much like Mr Loaf, thank the lord, but for me the Meat Loaf memories evoked by the Springsteen-like bluster of this disc's opener Darkroom make the song very like hard to love. It's very short, though, and things settle down right after with Shonalee, which is all twang and yearning, and some more restrained rockers which follow, like Office Girl, which verges on the funky. The Springsteen influence is strong throughout, though, with that swaying soul-tinged rock thing going strong, and the blue-collar concerns.

This no-nonsense set follows 'Draw Them Near' Klein's big-time debut, which itself followed on from three independent albums and you, like me, might also have heard her as part of the Voices on the Verge quartet. Which brings us to track 6, Soda Water, which manages the white reggae thing with style and soul and no embarrassment - amazing.

Some discs are basically downbeat with a few more 'up' songs interspersed to vary the mood, but this is not one of those. So if you like your women built with a bit more rock beef than the wispy country corn-fed singers found in alt-country circles, this may well be one for you.

Jeff Cotton
February-April 2005