Athens, Georgiaâ€“based singer/songwriter Adam Klein’s fifth album, “Sky Blue DeVille” (released on Klein’s independent Cowboy Angel Music label on April 16, 2013) explores travel-related themes like movement, distance, and longing, while also debuting his new band, The Wild Fires.
I’ve watched Klein travel, play, and perform for more than 12 years, since he and I met on a trip to rural Honduras one summer. Then there was the time Adam and I sang and pontificated together on a rooftop in a Maya village in Guatemala, while our group of tuckered-out university students on an AJWS alternative breaks trip slept in the house below.
Klein went on to travel further throughout Central and North America, and also to Africa. His last album, “Dugu Wolo”, was an acoustic West African Mande roots tribute to the people he met during his Peace Corps service in Mali. Listening to his songs and following his career is like following him around the world, which is the next best thing to traveling together.
Adam Klein and The Wild Fires built the songs of “Sky Blue Deville” between playing shows and Kleinâ€™s travels to West Africa. The collection steers away from the country and roots-heavy stylings of Kleinâ€™s previous releases in favor of a more Americana rock approach. Song titles like “Highway of Your Love”, “Drivin’ in the Rain” are obvious movement songs, but I asked Klein which other tunes on the album were directly inspired by the act of traveling.
“Restless Soul,” he said, “is a road song and recalls a midwestern road trip I took before leaving for Mali and my time in Peace Corps. “Goodnight Nobody” was inspired by a lone walk on the water’s edge in the rain, through Red Hook, Brooklyn. There are songs on this record and previous albums of distance and songs of movement. My traveling songs aren’t necessarily about the particular place I’m in, but may have an eye toward home. An expression of nostalgia or a yearning for the idea of home. “Days to Come” is a song expressing the struggle of distance and trying to do right by a lover.
“On Sky Blue DeVille, the title track and “Drivin’ in the Rain” are both inspired by Elvis’ story. The first finds Elvis yearning for his early, simpler days, and the latter is Elvis, in later years, consumed by the confusion and madness of his own stifling empire.”
I asked about his music in relation to his service work with Peace Corps and American Jewish World Service, specifically (where we met).
“I have a good bit of unreleased material,” he said, “for two albums in particular, which tell the story of places I’ve been- songs of dignity, songs about the way life is lived by most people in the world, in the most impoverished places. One album is about Nicaragua and the Sandinista revolution, which I became really interested in in my time there, and another album is about the global south more generally, and aims to ‘give voice to the voiceless,’ if we can be so bold.”
I’d say, yes, we can and should be so bold and I’m glad for those who are, especially the good storytellers.