Eric Klein’s latest release, Road to Now is a diverse 14-song collection that captures experiences of loss, redemption, and good old-fashioned fun in a variety of musical settings. While primarily a rock album, he unabashedly flavors his songs with blues, country, and even New Age. The first few tracks alone take a multitude of musical directions, more than some artists attempt in the span of an entire album.
If you were to judge the CD on the strength of the first track, "Perfect Day," you might conclude that Klein is a rock singer-songwriter in the vein of Jackson Browne or Tom Petty. However, it is followed by "Sugar Jones," a whiskey-soaked Southern blues raver that would do George Thorogood or Jonny Lang proud. Next up is the introspective "The Garden," which finds him crooning like the late Jim Croce over a spaciously textured musical backdrop. Yet once that concludes, the piano and guitar boogie of "Gainesville Girl" takes us back down South. "Bluesman," the next song is physically grafted to "Gainesville Girl," even though it takes a darker turn with its menacing minor blues beat. It's an interesting juxtaposition. The blues and the South are recurring themes, as is evident with songs like "MCWBB (Middle Class White Boy Blues)," a hilarious send-up of consumer culture with a catchy walking bass line, and "Diesel Town," a rolling country song that is firmly entrenched in the Cash/Carter camp.
Lest anybody think that this is merely a collection of tunes assembled at the behest of one guy's wide-ranging whims, I have news for you: it hangs together surprisingly well! When you listen to this album, it feels as if a singular vision unites the array of styles presented. Klein is a talented songwriter and musician who has undertaken a very ambitious project with this CD. He plays a lot of instruments and sings almost every note. For things like drums, percussion, piano, pedal steel guitar, and female backing vocals, he notes that they were assembled from software loops. Truthfully? It sounds as if he recruited a tight band of great players and brought them into the studio. The attention to detail and care in the creation of these tracks is really quite remarkable.
Klein is a versatile guitarist and vocalist, rising very capably to the occasion with each musical style he attempts. I have already noted his voice's similarity to George Thorogood and Jim Croce, yet on "Now," the psychedelic closing track, I can close my eyes and see Roger McGuinn of the Byrds at the mic. How cool is that? His guitar playing is immaculate, whether he's burnin' on an electric blues solo, laying down atmospheric textures, or taking us to the bayou with his dobro. What he does is perfect for the songs. While I can't credit him with breaking much new stylistic ground, he makes a very strong statement within the artistic territory he has staked out for himself. There is a lot to see and hear on the Road to Now.