Jack Klatt: I wanted a real solo album

Categories: Album Release
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Photo courtesy of the artist

The last time City Pages talked to Jack Klatt, he was preparing to release Mississippi Roll, a sweeping cross-generational collaboration that surveyed the scope of traditional music along the mighty river's 2,300 storied miles. After recording with a cast of Minnesota legends and filling the Cedar Cultural Center for an epic evening, the twenty-something troubadour took on a quieter project, a solo album, and a series of ramblin' tours right out of his roots-rich lyrics.

Gimme Noise met him at the Palmer's patio for a round of rail whiskeys on a windy evening just before the rains came to talk about his adventures and Love Me Lonely, out this weekend with a show at the Celtic Junction.

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"After we did Mississippi Roll, I really wanted to tour down the river with the band, but we never got to it," Klatt explains. "We're finally getting out on the road, regionally, Chicago and stuff. Patty and Josh are busy guys. They've got families and I can't imagine what their wives would do to me if we took off to hobo on the road for a month or more."

"So I did this record to sell on the road. Patty and the Buttons is hot and Josh has his free jazz work." Klatt did tour down the Old Man all the way to the Crescent City, but without his band. "My pal Andy came along," he says. "He actually decided to come along on a coin flip."

New Orleans pianist Stephanie Nilles inspired Klatt to hit the road like a character in one of his songs. "Around this time my life was falling apart a little, it was my birthday. I was wandering around south Minneapolis, drunk in the afternoon, and Stephanie called me. She said she was coming to town, but then said, 'Hey, want to tour with me?'" Nilles, a compelling combination of Tom Waits, Ani Difranco, and Professor Longhair, had been spending most of her time on the road, more than eight months of the year. "Luggin' her keyabord around," says Klatt. "I have mad respect for her, not a lot of people tour like that anymore."

Love Me Lonely paid for its share of drinks on the road. It also introduced audiences to Klatt's fingerpicking style and original songs. "I had been hanging out with Dakota Dave Hull a lot because he'd been playing gigs with us, at Merlin's and stuff. 'Jack,' he'd say, 'You oughta record a solo album.' We tried a few things at Arabica, his studio, and after a while he asked what I thought about mono."

"I liked the idea so we set up one mic and a chair and he kept it that way. We didn't move anything; I'd just come in and record a few tracks from time to time." Klatt compares the album to Dave van Ronk's 1976 disc, Sunday Street. "That record's pretty bare," he says. "You can hear him breathing."

"I wanted a real solo album, not just something with a new unnamed band." Hull engineered the project, as he had Mississippi Roll, and Klatt focused on performing. "I don't think about that stuff," he admits. "Technically, I'm not good at making those decisions. That might work to my disadvantage but I've always just sang my songs and worked with people I trust."

New material wasn't a problem. Klatt had already added so many classics to his sets, and written several new songs of his own. "I was living in this place on the south side and I discovered I could climb out on the roof and watch the sun go down right there by the highway. So I'd bring my guitar and strum some chords every night, that's where I wrote most of the songs."

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