Roots Rock N Universal Love, the first full-length CD from Kwame Binea Shakedown (the band released an EP in 2015), is some delicious pop and rock music with plenty of soul running through it and lots of positive vibes. It’s exactly the kind of thing to raise your spirits during these dark, completely screwed up political times. Most of the songs on this album are originals, written by Kwame Binea and Justin Wilcox. Kwame Binea Shakedown features Kwame Binea on vocals, Justin Wilcox on guitar and backing vocals, Medley Shabazz on drums and backing vocals, Art Vanterpool on guitar, Phil Bassaragh on bass, Kengo Yamada on saxophone, Brian Varneke on trumpet, Daron Jonathan on keys, Jerry Ramos on keys, and Charles Mack on keys. Dietrice Bolden and Jindai Joseph provide backing vocals. The album was produced by Vernon Reid (yes, of Living Colour). Born in West London, Kwame Binea now lives in New York, where the band has done many of its shows. And after listening to this CD, I have to imagine this group puts on one hell of a live show.


The album gets off to an excellent start with “Ain’t Your Woman,” which is a kind of funky rock gem. Man, I love those horns. And that thumping rhythm should put a smile on your face and get your feet to moving. And check out the energy and joy in Kwame Binea’s vocals. “Ain’t Your Woman” is followed by “Far Away,” another energetic tune with a funky edge and some really good work on drums. If you’re into Stevie Wonder’s more rowdy and spirited material, you will certainly dig this. “Work and work, we break our backs for someone else/And for what, so they can risk our health/So in this life you can’t let no one in your way.” This song is dripping with power. There is more great drumming on “Setting Sun.” “Come on down for the setting sun/This could be the last one.” Feels that way these days, doesn’t it?


Then in “Love Surreal,” Kwame Binea sings, “They say love, when it comes, it takes control/I’d play the fool for you, roam the earth if you ask me to.” Oh yes, I know the feeling – best feeling in the world. This song comes on strong and features some good work on guitar. “Love Surreal” was written by Vernon Reid and Kwame Binea. It is followed by “Mona Lisa,” which has a delicious bass line and a bit of a Santana vibe in the guitar work and the percussion.


I dig the groove of “Back To You,” a song about regretting letting a relationship go. “Like a fool, I took her for granted/Now she’s gone/And now I know that I won’t find anyone better than you.” Now that he’s realized that, he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get the woman back, even getting on his knees. This tune features more good work on horns. “John James Poe” has a great funky energy. “He’s a liar/Make you think he cares for you/Don’t let him in, no no no no no no no/He’ll take and take and take and take ‘til there’s no more.” Yup, sounds about right. The album then concludes with its sole cover, Jimmy Cliff’s “Universal Love (Beyond The Boundaries),” here simply titled “Universal Love.” This is a perfect song to revisit now, and Kwame Binea Shakedown does a great job with it. “Go beyond religious boundaries/And beyond political boundaries/Yes, beyond commercial boundaries/And beyond sexual boundaries/Yes, beyond racial boundaries/Universal love.


CD Track List

  1. Ain’t Your Woman
  2. Far Away
  3. Setting Sun
  4. Love Surreal
  5. Mona Lisa
  6. In Your Eyes
  7. Back To You
  8. World On Fire
  9. John James Poe
  10. Universal Love

Roots Rock N Universal Love is scheduled to be released on May 30, 2017. Click here for more information.