Album Review – Terry Klein’s “Leave The Light On”

There are songwriters. Then there is that most exclusive pantheon of songwriters who wield the pen so mightily, it goes beyond the simple casting of characters and landscapes in the mind’s eye of the listener, and graduates to imparting new perspectives on life otherwise inaccessible, and opening up entirely new avenues of thought in the audience.

We’re talking about James McMurtry. We’re talking about Chris Knight. We’re talking about Lori McKenna. And though he may not enjoy the same name recognition as these aforementioned individuals, down in Austin, attentive listeners and peers of Terry Klein consider him part of that elite company. Give yourself 40 minutes in the audience of his new album Leave The Light On, and you’ll count yourself among that company as well.

Wherever his muse takes him, and whatever subject he chooses to broach, Terry Klein can can tackle it, and with authority. In one moment he’s writing a loving tribute to newlyweds on how to keep the matrimony pleasant for many years to come. Then in the next moment he’s singing from the perspective of a homicidal for-hire killer and convincing you this profession is perfectly acceptable. Next he’s taking something as mundane as scrounging up $1.60 to buy a pack of smokes and making it sound like a hero’s journey.

This is Terry Klein at work, and he’s one of those songwriters where the words and stories trump everything else, including whether the audience who finds favor with this work is far and wide, or few and far between. The song is what dictates where he goes, and few songs will take you farther than the ones of Terry Klein.

The 10 songs of Leave The Light On are like 10 little universes that you’re eager to unearth and unravel, hanging on every word, and re-racking them to catch what you might have missed the first time. But this experience would not be as pleasant if the musical accompaniment wasn’t as complimentary as it is. Produced by another mastermind in Thomm Jutz, the songwriting is always paramount, but the country style in how those songs are rendered is appreciated by the audience too.

The shuffling groove of “This Too Shall Pass” sets your mood right, even if you don’t catch the song’s lesson on luck. The fiddle of “Sky Blue LeBaron” gives you a warm feeling as well, and the steel guitar is the perfect texture to sell you on the destitute story of “Starting at Zero.”

Other names in Terry Klein’s orbit are Walt Wilkins who produced his first two albums, along with Mary Gauthier and Rodney Crowell who’ve both given Klein high praise. He lives a rather quiet existence though, seeking out listening rooms like The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville or The Saxon Pub in Austin where the crowd comes to listen and will rebuff anyone for talking over the music.

In the void of boisterous shows, big budget publicity campaigns, or a massive social media presence, it’s up to the audience to support and share what songwriters like Terry Klein do. It’s a symbiotic relationship between singer and patron. And on Leave The Light On, Terry Klein gives patrons a great selection of songs that is better than most.


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