A folk musician blessed with a clear soprano voice, a keen talent for playing the harp, and a knack for crafting ethereal songs, Carol Kleyn was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, and became interested in music at a young age, playing oboe in the school band and studying piano. In 1969, Kleyn left Washington to attend the University of California in Santa Barbara, where she soon became immersed in the local counterculture scene and took a class on Poetry and Song taught by the noted poet Kenneth Rexroth. As part of a class assignment from Rexroth, Kleyn wrote her first two songs and performed them for her classmates. Meanwhile, she had struck up a friendship with Bobby Brown (no relation to the future member of New Edition), an activist and experimental musician who designed and constructed his own unique instruments. Kleyn began working with Brown, helping design and build pickups for his creations and running sound for his live performances. Brown gave Kleyn a harp as a present on her 21st birthday, and Kleyn set about teaching herself to play. Six months later, she was invited to perform at a Summer Solstice celebration; feeling uncomfortable with her improvisational skills and having not yet played the harp in public, Kleyn wrote a song the morning of the show, and it was received enthusiastically enough that she was forced to perform it a second time as an encore.
She dedicated herself to her music, and was soon playing coffee houses, folk clubs, and renaissance faires throughout California, as well as busking in parks and on street corners and performing at private functions. However, while she sometimes crossed paths with noted musicians (including Graham Nash, Jimmy Page, and Roger Miller) and record industry moguls (most notably Irving Azoff), her closest brush with mainstream success came when Gregg Allman heard her perform and hired her to play during intermission on one of his solo tours. Rather than wait for a record deal, Kleyn decided to make an album on her own, and in 1976, she recorded Love Has Made Me Stronger at a small Seattle studio and issued it on her own Lyra Records imprint. Kleyn would record and self-release two more albums, 1980's Takin' the Time and 1983's Return of the Silkie, but while she had built up a small but loyal following, she put her career on hold to start a family and became the mother of three children. In time, Kleyn's albums developed a reputation among collectors of '70s freak folk and private press recordings, and in 2011, Drag City Records struck a deal with her to reissue Love Has Made Me Stronger, giving Kleyn her first proper record contract. With Drag City's assistance, she also made the title track from Return of the Silkie available as a digital single, with proceeds going to a relief fund for victims of the March 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Northeastern Japan. In 2012, the label continued its Kleyn reissue program with her 1980 album, Takin' the Time, produced by sonic experimenter supreme, Bobby Brown (of cosmic psych masterpiece The Enlightening Beam of Axonda fame). ~ Mark Deming