karla moheno - gone to town
Moheno grew up in San Diego but had dreams of New York, too hard-edged for the soft filter of LA cool. Her childhood and teen years had been greatly impacted by 50’s and 60’s music and she kept it close at heart. She bounced around the clubs of the Big Apple and eventually crafted a slamming swing group. In her performance, Moheno has a cinematic approach and in writing she evokes the balance of truth hurts lyrics with sobering songwriting that could be considered noir blues. And she even slips in some rockabilly - cause she can. This soulful songstress has quite a bit in store on Gone To Town. It’s ambitious work for a debut, strong in message and consistent in sound. Let's divulge.
"Mexico" brings a new side to the album delivering a softer and less punchy Moheno. It sways slowly from side to side like the gate to happily abandoned land. The acoustic and washy cymbals find their mix under the triumphant and stylistic trumpet a la mariachi. It's not just a nod to the title or culture, the horn works perfectly to serve the song with emotion and the right character of sound. Moheno is a cat of many colors and she shows almost every one on this album.
“Mexico” was a gentler valley and slated well in the list. On "Fool of a Girl" we're reminded that there's nothing like a Johnny Cash 1,2 to get the toes tapping. The guitar warbles that oh too familiar tone, rich reverb and warm resonance. The bass plods with middle presence, the snare skips along the head not lazily, but with intention. Moheno's vocals are nestled in her sweet spot, laying the melody with ease. It's just a pinch jazz, with a twist of country and pop line movement. She has a captivating sound, transcending the styles of an earlier age where the stages were always curtained with billowing cigarette smoke, seedy exchanges and rich blues.
A classic jukebox ballad never gets old and "Fool of a Girl" fits the bill. The blues are pretty with organ shining through and vocals pining. It’s pure and fluid. "The Return" plays out with a sassy low key club vibe. You can't help but hear this and picture soft staging and slow crawling, leg kicking, bottle tipping and some sloppy mistakes to regret later. It's reservation, but it's a party. Moheno makes this borrowed sound seem fresh again, in high contrast to the likes of other artists seeking to play with the old and find their voice.
Moheno looks the part and more importantly sounds the part. Her musicianship eclipses any judgment one could make about flat bangs and inked arms all the way down to dark day dresses and nylons. Street style plays nice with Moheno - she'll serenade one minute, and serrate the next. Gone To Town suits many moods and will become a distinguished part of any catalog.
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