Inspired by a return home to Nigeria to mourn the loss of his father, soul singer/songwriter Kalu James has resurfaced with a new group, album, and purpose. Led by the rich timbre of James’ soulful tenor, Kalu & the Electric Joint have released Time Undone – a nine-track venture into loss and defying the underdog stigma.
A solo-artist by origin, James originally made a name for himself with his residency at Austin’s Continental Club. During this time, he released four solo albums that helped to define his Afro-funk-motivated blues sound. James’ time in Nigeria, however, left him a bit lost – unsure at times if he wanted to come back home. James did return to Austin and brought back a renovated spirit that was determined to succeed.
Enter the Electric Joint, the fantastic completion of James’ sound. Consisting of guitarist Jonathan “JT” Holt and drummer John Speice (Grupo Fantasma, Ocote Soul Sounds, Brownout), the instrumental powerhouses add wide-level dramatics with a flourishing blend of varying effects, instruments, and influences.
From the heavy fuzz of “Too Low to Get High” to the fusing of southern blues and African rhythms in “Testify,” the trio explore the plains of American and West African sounds. The large-scale influences ameliorate the core heavy-blues sounds of the group rather than oversaturating the album with meaningless dives.
Holt’s energetic American rock-and-blues guitar melodies push a southern rock sound akin to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton. “Get It Right” features a solo from Holt that is fueled by distortion and American soul. In contrast to the liveliness of “Get It Right,” “Sea of Life” features a dialed-down and focused Holt, shining through simplicity.
“No need to fight it / I am here to stay,” begins “Stay.” While the entire album centralizes around the idea of fighting for what you want and not backing down, “Stay” is the concentrated proclamation. James’ refined voice is put to work on this track, using layers of different effects and notes to fill the soundscape.
The blending of each of the trio’s talents feeds into the charisma of the thirty-minute LP. Pure musicianship and personality play into the group’s dynamic, which more than definitely shows a fully-realized Kalu & the Electric Joint. Laced with an indescribable quality that begs for continual listening, Time Undone is very well done.
Check out the photos below from Kalu & The Electric Joint’s Saturday show at The Mohawk along with a sample of what Time Undone has to offer.
Article by: Sawyer Click
Photos by: Demetrius Judkins @wolfspiritofthesun