(3 / 5)
Bai Kamara Jr. isn’t an artist I had heard of before this album dropped through the door from German label M.I.G.
Singer-songwriter and guitarist from Sierra Leone, spent some years growing up in the UK and has resided in Brussels for the last 25 years – the son of the former Sierra Leone Ambassador.
“Salone” is his seventh album. His 2001 debut “Urban Gipsy”, offered up an r&b and soul set. But Bai changes lanes as regards genres across his recorded output.
Starting with r&b/soul, then “World Music” for his 2010 album “Disposable Society”, then a rock record in 2007, back to r&B/soul for his 2011 offering before a “singer-songwriter album in 2012 and a funk set in 2017.
His collaboration with the band The Voodoo Sniffers mixes it all up with tracks covering blues and roots and more flavours sprinkled on top, for this new album.
He has a pleasant voice and the material is OK too. His African ancestry is marinated deeply into his delivery and his songs. The title of this new record, “Salone”, means Sierra Leone in the Krio language.
He has collaborated with an array of respected artists, including Youssou N’Dour, Dani Klein from Vaya Con Dios and others. Shared the stage with the likes of Cassandra Wilson, Habib Koite and Rokia Traore.
Bai was the opening act for Vanessa Paradis on her “Love Album Tour” and he had two songs in the Spanish director Paco Torres’ film, “El Vuelo Del Tren (The Magic Of Hope)”.
We get 17 tracks and a running time of just under 50 minutes here. Bai looks a lot like fellow roots music stars Eric Bibb and Keb Mo on the cool cover shot, complete with guitar and hat.
There are some very nice moments in this set, and his is a smooth, easy-on-the-ear vocal. But for me, it never really gets to where you feel it ought to go, and seems a tad safe.
An enjoyable album all the same, but perhaps Bai’s desire to be versatile in genres and his ability to switch so easily from soul, r&b, blues and World Music styles, is both a blessing and a curse.
If he could nail one sound and stick to it, perhaps he could then establish a sound of his own and propel his next album to greater heights.
A talent and ‘one to watch’, for sure, but “Salone” doesn’t provide a vehicle to fulfil his full potential, for this reviewer.
I’ll be keen to hear his next album, and for me, I’d be jetting off to Africa to work with local musicians there to explore his roots and dig deeper into the World Music core for album project number eight.
If you hear an Eric Bibb or Keb Mo album, there is never any doubt who it is you are listening to. Nail your niche sound…It is in there somewhere already!
By Steve Grace
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’