Jeff Klein – The Hustler

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Album Review by Mark Bayross

Named after the New Orleans club frequented by Jeff Klein and Afghan Whigs / Twilight Singers frontman Greg Dulli (who produced the album and lends his haunting voice to its closing song), THE HUSTLER is an attempt to expand on its stripped-down, acoustic predecessor, EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER.

Although the promised injection of some indie-rock bite doesn’t happen until NEARLY MOTIONLESS, the third track in, this is clearly a more direct record, full of future live favourites: the upbeat Paul Weller-esque SUZANNE and the 80s soft rock of STRIPPED contrast with the more brooding IRONSIDE and claustrophobic trip-hop beats on PITY.

It’s not just Greg Dulli helping out here either – Ani Di Franco and Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner guest on three songs each, adding their own weight to Klein’s world-weary voice. And on the likes of COBALT HUE, Klein demonstrates his way with a larger musical canvas, building from simple piano into a “Hey Jude”-style singalong.

Jeff Klein is undoubtedly moving onwards and upwards with this third album, although while some additions are unexpected (the use of electronics, for example), they don’t take him that far from his established sound. Whether you think that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.

4 stars