Written by Larry Robertson, posted by blog admin
Hailing from Israel via Oklahoma, Bat-Or Kalo has taken an improbable route to musical notoriety and her band KALO continues to make significant strides towards increasing their profile four releases into their run. Their latest studio album Wild Change is a familiar mix of blues and R&B with some funky elements thrown in, but KALO continues to refine their approach with each new release and their growing chemistry as a live act shows no signs of hitting a wall anytime soon. They’ve attracted attention from some of the pre-eminent blues practitioners working today including no less than one of British Blues Boom’s pivotal figures, bandleader and harmonica virtuoso John Mayall. They’ve headlined and made the bill at various festivals scattered throughout the United States and exhibit a discipline for road work that, frankly, is required for a band of their ilk to be successful on the modern scene.
The energy level stays high throughout much of Wild Change. The opener “One Mississippi” illustrates that energy well with swagger and swing in ample measure. Drummer Mike Alexander and bassist Mack McKinney lay down a steady and fluid foundation that’s recorded in such a way they practically come leaping out of the speakers. “Isabel” is much more about guitar heroics and Kalo is certainly up to the task of laying down some loud, blistering electric blues. Her singing voice is more than capable of matching the instrumental intensity, but you never feel like she’s placing her voice in direct competition with the guitar. Instead, performances like this seem like she wants one element to complement the other and they do so magnificently here. “Upside Down” really sets things on fire with a wild, assertive vocal from Kalo and huge swing courtesy of the rhythm section attack. The inclusion of brass in this song plucks it from the realm of the blues and, instead, sounds the album’s first R&B influenced moment. This is easily one of the best songs on Wild Change.
The title cut isn’t too shabby either. Kalo definitely lights things up on “Wild Change” and locks her voice in, early on, with the arrangement’s instrumental grind. It’s easily one of Kalo’s best singing performances on the new album and she throws herself into the track with the sort of reckless abandon fans of this genre always admire. Kalo’s blues chops get their most vivid work out yet on the slowburner “Only Love” and, especially, the second half becomes a first class exhibition of her skills as a soloist. “Bad Girl” is Wild Change’s last shot of over the top electric blues rock and it scores in a big way. While the subject matter and attitude may not be new to songwriting in this vein, Kalo belts the song out like she’s the first person to sing about this stuff. There’s no self-consciousness at all. There’s none anywhere on Wild Change. KALO is one of the best bands reclaiming blues tradition for a new generation working today and it’s, in part, because of the work of bands like this that the form will continue to endure.