Kwame Binea Shakedown
It’s impressive how Kwame Binea and Shakedown pull off their unique blend of roots and international music while still remaining so recognizable. Their debut Kwame Binea Shakedown hails from a world any hardcore music fan has visited. The band shares a spiritual tie to outfits from the late 1960’s-early 1970’s like The Electric Flag, late incarnations of The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and later fusion units who achieved even greater prominence. Don’t get it twisted though. Fusion is a loaded term, but this eight-piece band doesn’t offer chop workshops or head cutting contests disguised as songs. This is a daring debut, but the thrill comes from hearing how effortlessly they revamp hoary formulas with class and sharp instincts.
“Let Go” kicks things off and is obviously designed as a possible set opener for the band. Binea announces the band before launching into an inspired, fist-pumping vocal performance that snakes its way through the music’s irrepressible groove. Shakedown’s rhythm section has impressive elasticity as they stretch, snap back, and pump out the tempo with white-knuckled intensity. An incendiary guitar solo climaxes the song with great flourish. “Hang On” comes swinging into view on the strength of Melody Shabazz’s muscular drumming. His playing and another swaggering Binea vocal carry the entire track, but the horn section takes a memorable instrumental break. There’s a little bit of repetition near the track’s end, particularly with the “save your soul” refrain, but the rousing finale balances it some.
The restless rhythms of “Little Lady” are one of the release’s most interesting musical moments and the challenging tempo never loses its way. Binea wraps one of his best vocals around the beat and it helps improve an otherwise unremarkable, but quite serviceable, lyric. He brings such personality to the performance that it helps overcome the otherwise over-used subject matter. “Waiting” has an acoustic opening much softer than the earlier songs and escalates gradually from a spare beginning into a full band effort. Binea’s vocal aches with genuine sincerity.
Kwame Binea Shakedown glows with creativity and tangible energy. None of the songs lack for urgency and, in particular, Binea’s voice keeps imaginative pace with the band’s inventive playing. This release serves as a sort of sampler for the band rather than anything resembling a definitive musical statement, but it deserves critical notice as one of the year’s more promising debuts.
8 out of 10 stars.