If you're a music aficionado with an appreciation of the arcane for whom the forgotten tunes of the 1910s and '20s are just as compelling as anything you might stream on Spotify, and you've never heard of Janet Klein: welcome to a wonderful sinkhole of fun, where every day is Throwback Blursday.
Klein is a Los Angeles-based ukulele virtuoso and singer who began her career performing live in local venues like El Segundo's Old Town Music Hall in the late-'90s, and after nine full albums, has taken her turn as the toast of Tokyo, the sweetheart of the silent movie house set, and the darling of the old-time dance halls. Through a 20+ year career, she's recorded a beguiling assortment of hot swing, French ballads, early jazz, tin pan alley novelty tunes, and arcane Vitaphone numbers, keeping exactingly true to the spirit of each genre, its context, and singular sound. Whether accompanying herself on uke, or performing in front of Hal Roach-style arrangements with her full band, The Parlor Boys, Klein is a music historian as much as she is a musician and singer. She's an essential worker on the front lines of forgotten music, resuscitating life into material lost to disintegrating celluloid or marginalized due to limited test pressings. Using music halls, old rehearsal spaces, or anyplace else she and her Parlor Boys can find toasty acoustics for their studio recordings, Janet Klein's voice ices a cake baked with mandocello, xylophone, ocarina, lap steel guitar, accordion, the washboard, and the singing saw.
She's just released Yiddisha Follies, a collection of her notable Yiddish Vaudeville numbers on Bandcamp, including the tunes "Yiddish Hula Boy," "The Sheik of Avenue B," and "Cohen Owes Me Ninety-Seven Dollars."
"The story telling of these songs has everything to do with immigrant experiences…What results are songs that reveal a mashup of dialects, malapropisms, inside jokes and often are only thinly veiled references to people like Theda Bara, a tailor's daughter from Cincinnati, but in the movies, an exotic vamp from Egypt, inspiring the song 'Rebecca Came Back From Mecca.'"