DEAR JOHN–TREAT ME BAD–MARCH TO THE LIGHT–MARIE–HEARTBREAK–OH FATHER–DOWN DOWN DOWN–BLUE CHEVY–LOOKING FOR ME–ONCE I HAD A HEART–GOODBYE–LIKE IT OR NOT (COVER)–TENDER LOVE–CAN’T SLEEP AT NIGHT
As a youngster, Israeli-born Bat-Or Kalo got a Hendrix cassette(!) and an electric guitar, and that, as us old folks say, was all she wrote. After high school and a two-year hitch in the Israeli Defense Forces, she came to Oklahoma City U. to study music. There, she met up with bassist Mack McKinney, and, altho it took a while, both ended up back together around 2012 in Mississippi, as Kalo wanted to see first-hand where the blues originated.
Her debut album, released in the fall of 2013, is titled “Dear John,” and there are fourteen mostly original cuts full of the passion and verve to which she has dedicated herself along this blues journey. For this set, Kalo and McKinney use Erin Nelson as the predominate drummer, and some guest musicians we’ll get to in a bit. The band bills itself as KALO, and parlayed a semi-finalist run in the 2016 IBC’s into a free campaign from Blind Raccoon’s uber-publicist, Betsie Brown.
Kalo is a powerful young player brimming with chops and the attitude to succeed. As a bonus, growing up in Israel and then studying the blues literally down at the Crossroads gives her a unique perspective on just exactly what happened when that ol’ deal went down.
She starts off in a strong Hill-Country vibe, her guitar wailing and drums pounding out “Dear John, please don’t leave me tonight,” while pleading in the next cut for a lover to “Treat Me Bad.” Another paramour becomes her “drug” of choice, but, inevitably is good for nothing except more “Heartbreak,” as her guitar lines bespeak her pain in this one. Fiddle and banjo from John Knudson add to the country-blues of Kalo’s dobro in “Looking For Me,” and she closes on an acoustic note, trying to get past a departed lover, but “there’s a voice in my head, and I Can’t Sleep At Night.’
We had two favorites, too. She defiantly fires off deep dobro runs thru the field-holler style blues of “March To The Light,” as “I don’t give a damn if I go to Hell.” And, as sure as Sunday morning follows Saturday night, she asks for cleansing repentance in “Oh Father, will you save a wretch like me?”
Turns out that Bat-Or Kalo is quite a student of the blues. She’s got that eternal give-and-take with good vs. evil down pat, and “Dear John” is a mighty fine debut! Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.