Lonely Old Soul: Jack Klatt taps the well of American roots music

Listen Up Toledo  |  07/09/2013

As the ongoing tradition of American roots and blues music continues to unfold, its torch holders seem to rise from increasingly unexpected places. While Minneapolis is probably best known as the homebase for Prince’s Paisley Park empire, the city has an impressive musical history. Aside from birthing legendary acts like Bob Dylan (who quickly ran away) and the Andrews Sisters, Minneapolis has also been home to early alternative rock staples like Hüsker Dü and The Replacements, and later in the ‘90s, quasi-underground hip-hop influentials such as Atmosphere, Eyedea and Abilities, Brother Ali, and others. But too, the city has a long tradition of folk, blues, and a still-thriving rockabilly scene. This later part is where singer/songwriter Jack Klatt has found his place in his home state.

A self-taught musician, Klatt – though just in his late-20s – has paid his dues travelling America, Europe and Canada with his guitar at his side. From bar rooms to living rooms to street corners, Klatt carries the torch of his inspiration proudly, following in the tradition of Utah Phillips, Blind Willie MacTell, and Townes Van Zant. In 2009, Klatt settled in Minneapolis and started his popular rockabilly / roots  outfit, the Cat Swingers. A year later he made a visit to Toledo with touring partner Sabyre Ray Daniels playing traditional music, originals and covers, and impressed a handful of locals who had the good fortune to catch the show or jam with him and Daniels in the two or so days they spent in town.

Klatt’s good experience here yielded another booking in town the following year, but the date was thwarted by good fortune. The troubadour was awarded a grant in 2011 from the Minnesota State Arts Grant to record a collaborative album with a number of veteran Minnesota music legends, including Spider John Koerner, Dakota Dave Hull, Cornbread Harris, and Charlie Parr. The outcome of his sessions from that project have since garnered international acclaim, including praise from California to the U.K.

Much delayed, but a man of his word, Klatt will return to Toledo on Friday, July 12th, performing solo in support of his new album, Love Me Lonely. In anticipation of the show, Toledo.com caught up with Klatt from the road to discuss his early influences, recent projects, and the benefits of being unplugged. Check out the interview below.

Jack Klatt plays the Ottawa Tavern (1815 Adams St.) on Friday, July 12th. Music at 10pm. No Cover. www.otavern.com   www.jackklatt.com


The first time I saw you guys, I walked into the Ottawa Tavern and you and Sabyre Rae Daniels were just nailing a Bessie Smith cover - I don't recall the exact tune now - but I remember being so impressed by the sincerity with which you both delivered the song. How did you become exposed to the classic blues and American roots music you primarily play?

That tune was "Nobody Knows You When Your Down and Out."  I was spending some time with a friend who had all this old vinyl of Robert Johnson, Mississippi Fred McDowel, and Mississippi John Hurt and it sent me back to the womb in a weird way.  I had been performing with punk rock and rockabilly bands in my late teens and was getting down about the ‘fratey’ atmosphere of the scene in Minneapolis.  The old music seemed much more sincere and honest than anything I've ever heard.  I've always thought that honesty is the most important virtue so I followed it, and here I am.


You communicate through your covers and renditions of this music such a deep appreciation, for me it's hard to put my finger on, but I'm wondering if you can articulate what it is about that music that moves you? 

The blues touches on some primal topics, traveling, being broke and hungry, hard times, falling in love, I suppose the most familiar is love gone wrong.  It's something universal.  I've gone through some hard times in my life, and it's real comforting to hear a song, an old song, that is telling your story.  It tells us that these things have been happening since there were people walking the earth.  There is a lot of healing in the music I think.


You very recently received a grant to work with some music legends in your hometown of Minneapolis; can you talk about that project? What it was? How it went? 

I had to cancel my last performance in Toledo because I received a grant to do a collaborative recording with a number of my musical heroes in Minneapolis; Spider John Koerner, Charlie Parr, Dakota Dave Hull, and Cornbread Harris.  I also wrote a handful of songs for the recording in addition to our guest artists.  We did two eight-hour days in creation audio recording.  The collaborations were done more or less off the cuff.  In retrospect the thing could have been a train wreck, but the spirit of the sessions was great.  I was honored to put the whole thing together.


And one of the works from that project has garnered some acclaim and notoriety, has it not? 

Yup, we have received some airplay in the UK on the BBC, some reviews overseas as well. 


You have a new CD out, hot off the press. What's this disc like compared to your previous effort with the Cat Swingers? What are you most excited for about it, do you feel like this represents you in a new light as a musician?

I just put out a solo disc, Love Me Lonely.  And by solo I mean solo, just me my voice and my guitar, some occasional foot stomping.  It was all recorded mono and produced by Dakota Dave Hull.  I wrote a handful of tunes for the disc and also interpreted some traditional material.  I recorded it mainly because I'm going to be on the road and unable to bring my band with me all the time.  I wanted to have something that represented what I can do all by myself.  

Last, for younger folks coming up and perhaps just discovering this music, what advice do you offer?

I've never been to good at advice.  Usually it's just folks talking to themselves without knowing it.  If you’re a performer, it's good to think of how you can entertain folks when the electricity goes out.