A subtle blend of country and folk to reflect on changing times.
Nashville based singer songwriter Kate Klim sounds so sparkling, fresh and uplifting that careful attention to the lyrics is required to understand that an album intended as a picture of real life, the ups and downs of two people rubbing along together, should turn out to be one of considerable upheaval. Yet despite a tornado, pandemic and a divorce ‘Something Green’ is not so much about loss but of release. With a voice reminiscent of Nanci Griffith, Klim is about accepting, hope and growth. Her glistening vocals shimmer with love throughout songs that range from layered sophisticated country, folk and pop to deeply personal acoustic muses. From Illinois via Pennsylvania Klim has been a Nashville resident for over a decade. Her influences come from her parents’ record collection that included Carole King, Paul Simon and Neil Young. Throw in a love of Motown and pop, the rigours of Berklee School of Music and you have a perceptive writer with a keen ear for a melody. Readers who lean more to the grittier end of americana might be put off with too much pop but ‘Something Green’ proves americana is a very broad church and Klim’s place is assured.
To an upbeat tempo, perhaps deceptively optimistic, the album opens with the title track which is about letting go and accepting change. As a controlled fire is sometimes needed before growth can return so the metaphor applies to Klim’s life. “Sometimes they burn it down / So something new can grow”. That fast-paced blend of country rock and pop gives way to a slower folkier, style that draws the listener into Klim’s themes of disorder leading to rebuilding. ‘Almost Know Anyone’ is about getting to know others as well as ourselves. Klim expands her vocal range to give this reflection added texture. Her piano accompaniment is the current on which her thoughts flow.
‘Nobody Told You’ takes the story of the Japanese WW2 soldier left behind on an island with the order never to surrender. Not having been told the war was over and despite repeated pleas to convince him the war had ended he stuck to his original command. Klim uses his intransigence to explore how we can cling to notions that ignore truth or reason. The story may be old but the message is brutally relevant as ever. The backing vocals and trumpet add remoteness to the situation.
The singer-songwriter folk vibe seems to be Klim’s true home as the wistful ‘Take The Driving’ would testify. Strands of Joni Mitchell weave an intricate song through two key changes as Klim thinks about how a couple shares the load of their relationship. “And I know sometimes it all gets so heavy / These things that you carry, you can give some to me.”
‘Lines’ is about Klim’s recurring dream of forgetting her lines during the school play. Written while she was recording the album in Dallas the song takes a completely new direction when she receives news of the tornado that had flattened her neighbourhood back home in East Nashville. Nanci is definitely looking down as Klim deftly ties together these two completely separate stories. ‘Highland Park’ heaves with sadness as Klim looks back to where her marriage began with all its high hopes. Shrouded by the end of that relationship Klim expresses her sadness both vocally and in her mournful line, “And so it ends the way it started / In Highland Park” yet still managing to look forward.
The lightness of sound counterbalancing the depth of emotion in ‘Something Green’ makes for a richly satisfying listen.