photo by Valerie Fremin
Austin singer-songwriter Terry Klein entertained a crowd of family, friends, and fans at DC’s Hill Country BBQ on Tuesday evening. I spoke to Terry before the show, and discovered some connections. Terry went to college at the University of Michigan, and I spent my freshman year. He related a harrowing story of a friend who burned down his dorm with his menorah over Hanukkah, and the resulting negative attention drove him to leave.
The former lawyer and transplant from Boston opened with Scott Nolan’s “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart,” a song that he said Hayes Carll had “made famous, if a song can be famous in Americana.” Terry followed up with Sagamore Bridge, a song with hints of James McMurty’s “Copper Canteen” about his “love/hate” relationship with Cape Cod, where he spent time growing up. Terry said the audience could be forgiven if they got the impression that it was a “hate/hate” relationship.
Terry explained that, before he met his wife, he had a series of long-distance relationships, which he reflects on in “Anywhere But Here.” He sings about how the relationships seemed to work at a distance, but, up close, they always seemed to dissolve.
After singing “Anywhere But Here,” Terry told that audience about how the Southern writer Flannery O’Connor had influenced his songwriting. He said that, if she wrote (almost) entirely sad stories, he felt he could write (almost) entirely sad songs. In “Andalusia,” Terry sang about O’Connor’s resilience after being diagnosed with lupus at age 26. O’Connor, he told the audience, returned to a farmstead, Andalusia, where she lived for another 13 years, produced an incredible body of work.
Terry didn’t come to his interest in music as an accident. He shared that his father, Joe, wrote Woody Guthrie: A Life, which inspired the song “Too Blue.” Terry followed “Too Blue” with “Oklahoma” and “Anika.”
Terry explained that, unlike most men, he really loves his mother-in-law. Before his wife was born, he told the audience, she worked as a radio reporter in Los Angeles. One of the stories she covered was “the trial of the century,” a prosecutor accused of murdering his wife and her lover. Though the names had been changed, he recounted the harrowing tale in “Wasted on the Living.”
After “Wasted on the Living,” Terry shared “Steady Rain” and “Daddy’s Store” with the audience, and came to what he said he was the first good song he wrote, “Watchman.” Terry said that, for a long time, he was afraid to play “Watchman,” afraid he would be exposed. He also shared the thought that, as a singer-songwriter, he gets to be professionally vulnerable.
For more than half of his 45 years—26 years to be precise—Terry lived in Boston. His feelings for Beantown mirror his love/hate relationship with Cape Cod, and are chronicled in the reference-heavy, humorous “Such a Town.” After name checking a laundry list of Boston people and places, Terry slyly suggests that playing the song would probably get him killed.
“Better Luck Next Time,” Terry told the audience was the written at the home and studio of musician/producer Kevin Welch, a major presence on the alt-country scene since the ’90s. Terry finished up with “Straw Hat,” and mixed with the crowd. Stories were told, friendships made, and good times had by all.
Find his music and tour dates right here: https://www.terrykleinmusic.com/