By Jenny Cordle.
It was within the first few weeks of being in Mali as a Peace Corps volunteer that Adam Klein wrote ‘Burnin’ Love,’ a bluesy song from his new album, Archer’s Arrow, which releases September 22. Over a decade ago he’d spent the day preparing for his new adventure in the village of Dougouolou in the Segou region.
“[Burnin’ Love] speaks to the Peace Corps experience that many volunteers might remember,” Adam said. “That was my first full day at site.”
With all of his belongings unpacked from the car and a good luck, farewell from the Peace Corps liaison, Adam became nostalgic.
“I was cleaning my mud house and doing a lot of sweeping and I wrote that song,” he said. “That’s a song about the end of a love.”
Archer’s Arrow is decidedly an Americana folk rock album with “rustic country flavors,” featuring a blend of musicians from Mississippi and from Adam’s hometown of Athens, Georgia. While recording the album in 2011, he began exploring “new sonic territory,” infusing more pop and rock than usual with songs toward the end that are softer, “more reminiscent of Neil Young with Crazy Horse.”
Although his sixth album is not his personal expression of Mali, some of the songs were written while he lived in Dougouolo. “That’s been the MO for all of my records,” Adam said. “I think that speaks to the extent of the depth of the experience that Mali was for me.”
Adam has since returned to the West African nation several times over the last decade, spending time in Dougouolo and hanging out with local musicians. He relishes any opportunity to talk about the country full of “gracious people with a rich and beautiful cultural heritage.”
“Of course it has to do with the people, culture—‘jatigiya’ which is hospitality,” his explanation sprinkled with Bambara language he learned while living there. “It’s an entrenched part of Malian culture and a practice performed by Malians, on behalf of foreign visitors and Malians alike. I couldn’t have anticipated how much fun I would’ve had with interactions.”
As a Peace Corps volunteer, he worked with a village bank, hosted a radio show, taught English, and co-created a radio soap opera series. He also tried his hand at traditional West African instruments.
“The kora is very difficult,” Adam said of the 21 string lute-bridge-harp. “I tried playing ngoni—very tricky—but I can do some calabash as needed.”
Adam remembers having breakfast in Segou with Ali Farka Toure, an internationally renowned Malian musician whose music represents a point of intersection of traditional Malian music and the blues. They talked about Peace Corps, the state of Mali and, of course, music.
Adam recorded Dugu Wolo, his fifth album featuring traditional style Malian Mande songs performed in Bambara in Bamako, Mali’s burgeoning capital.
“I’m totally inspired by music of Mali; it’s music I still listen to.”
It’s no accident that Archer’s Arrow is available on September 22, the day Mali gained its independence from France fifty-five years ago, through Adam’s website at www.adam-klein.com. You can also purchase his new album on iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, and CD Baby.