Reviewed by Austin Powell, Fri., June 25, 2010
Kalu James opens Live with what would be awkward even at a collegiate open mic night: "Apparently I give really good hugs." What follows on this hourlong disc recorded late last year at Ruta Muya, however, is no laughing matter. While the Nigerian-born Austin-transplant's first two studio LPs leaned heavily on Tracy Chapman ("To Be in Love With Me") and Jeff Buckley (the vocal theatrics of "SCheck"), onstage the 28-year-old singer-songwriter comes into his own, evincing AAA-radio-ready sincerity in the light island breeze of "Dreams" and "Love for Someone Else," an emotional, moving tribute to his family in West Africa. Even more impressive is his worldly backing band, which stretches out past the seven-minute mark with confidence and poise on "The Way I Feel" and "Listen to the Wind." James' clumsy between-song banter needs work, but Live testifies to the abundance of impressive new talent performing in Austin nightly.