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Friday, April 14, 2006



Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys

Once upon a time, songs filled with earthy humor, sexual innuendo and a deep love of pretty melody were the norm. Singer and ukelele player Janet Klein collects such long-lost gems from the 1910s, '20s and '30s and revives them with a passion. Far from sounding like a musical antiquity, though, she sings and plays with the period's original spirit of wide-open fun, and an impeccable sense of musicianship.

Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys will perform these "obscure, naughty and lovely songs" (as she describes them) during her Japan tour next week.

For 10 years, she has been combining a fascination with the period photos, Art Deco style and pre-censorship music of yesteryear with her own poetry. Over four CDs, she's developed a pitch- and picture-perfect retro style, picking up her eight backing "parlor boys" along the way. Klein and the boys fully capture the spirit of a bygone era, with cornets that echo, banjos that rattle and steel guitars that zip along like Django Reinhardt's did.

But Klein's voice is the most marvelous instrument of all. Her singing on "Living in Sin," "Ballin' the Jack" and "Sing Me a Baby Song" -- all from her latest release, "Scandals" -- displays a magically sexy tone and wildly bouncing syncopation. The sharp, clever wit of her lyrics comes through vibrantly, and you know when she delivers lines like, "I'm the only girl in the world / can take a biscuit apart / and put it back / just like it was," that the song must be about something more than just biscuits.

Most nostalgics like to say they were just born in the wrong age; lucky for us, Klein was born into this one.

Janet Klein and Her Parlor Boys play: April 18, 7:30 p.m. at Thumbs Up with Ban Ban Bazar, in Yokohama, (045) 314-8705; April 20, 7:30 p.m. at Club Quattro with Fresh Lemons, in Hiroshima, (082) 542-2280; April 21, 7:30 p.m. at Monk, Matsuyama, (089) 932-3344; April 22, 7:30 p.m. at Mokkiriya, Kanazawa, (076) 231-0096, (076) 264-3672 or (076) 245-2200; April 23, 7 p.m. at Club Quattro with Sweet Hollywaiians, Shinsaibashi, Osaka (06) 6281-8181; and April 24, 7 p.m. at Club Quattro, Shibuya. For more information, visit Tom's Cabin at toms-cabin.com

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