Missoula songwriter, Tahj Bo Kjelland grew up around family musicians, so he easily gravitated toward performing. On this second album he expresses himself on hip-hop pieces with reggae and R&B influences. All are self-penned except the chorus to “Lulu Love.”
Kjelland plays bass and is accompanied by a cadre of other instrumentalists: Sam Ore and Yabba Griffiths, guitar; Ryan Means, keys; Kyle Gillet, trombone; Dylan Dwyer, alto sax; Mike Hamling, trumpet; and Brandon Zimmer and Ras Congo, drums. Margi Cates, Penelope Baquero, and Diego Kjelland all add vocals.
Kjelland starts off the short “Mountain Skies” playing haunting flute; the tune then morphs into a gospel-flavored call-and-response with a crowd. “Alchemy” has a struttin’ tempo with a cool horn section bubbling underneath, and a torrent of lyrics.
Fuzzed-out vocal effects, loads of reverb, and island ambience infuse the gentle “Stop Drop and Roll.” Kjelland, seemingly channeling Bob Marley, has a versatile baritone that moves all around the verses.
“44 Degrees” has a nice chord progression and rapid-fire lyrics (“When you get a chance why don’t you give a little bit of energy for the people to dance”).
The most unusual piece is “I Cry Str8.” At just under a minute long, it’s got a cool drumbeat and mantra-like mm-mmms underneath the words. Kjelland voices a hypnotic, repeated “I cry, I cry, oh baby, I cry,” that follows lines such as “… tears for the ones unjustly in chains … ”
This song is an example of Kjelland’s musical mission to speak out against oppression in all its forms, and its simplicity brings home the message. You’ll dance when you turn up this recording.
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– Mariss McTucker