There are many times when I am so glad that I enjoy such a wide range of music, switching from heavy metal to golden age of jazz to folk and then prog, without a worry or concern, being able to enjoy each of them. I have raved over RIO, discussed the joys of krautrock, then happily gone to see Napalm Death and Carcass (what an amazing night that was). Now, one of the more interesting labels out there at the moment is 7D Media, run by touch guitarist extraordinaire Trey Gunn. They tend to release albums he has played on, or music by incredible musicians than tends towards the eclectic, so when I came across this one I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. What I do know, is that I didn’t expect to hear an album that had an immediate impact on me, throwing me back to the awesome ‘Time’s Up’ by Living Colour – an album I bought when it was released in 1990 and still play today. It was only after I had listened to it that I studied the press release and saw that Vernon Reid had been involved, as producer of “Universal Love” by Jimmy Cliff, a featured track, and also co-wrote the tune “Love Surreal.”
Kwame Binea was born in West London with native origins in Ghana. In 2009, when Kwame teamed up with songwriter/guitarist Justin Wilcox, his artistic identity began to really surface and flourish. He transplanted to Harlem and they started performing covers and a few originals as an acoustic duo in clubs and coffee houses around New York City. There they built up credibility with their guitar driven acoustic live performances and also drew some attention from other NYC/NJ musicians playing the same circuit of venues. Initially drummer Medley Shabazz joined the duo, then bassist Phil Bassaragh and guitarist Art Vanterpool. In 2011, the core 5-piece band started playing in clubs throughout the city. The band sometimes features horn players, Brian Varneke (trumpet) and Kengo Yamada (saxophone). According to legend or myth (depending on who tells the story) the band earned its name Uptown Shakedown because the walls in Kwame’s apartment in Harlem used to shake when they rehearsed. It was later truncated to just Shakedown.
He has peppered his music with a unique brand of “Roots Rock” which embodies his fertile and culturally diverse personal saga. This is an incredibly charismatic, soulful, and romantic vocal approach to soulful rock with pop tendencies; music that can be danced to, but is never “dance music”. There is so much enthusiasm, joy and power contained in this album that I found it impossible to listen to it without smiling, I love it so much.
This is music with warmth, depth and passion, from a group of people who care about what they are doing and are here for the music, not wanting to be the next batch of chart fodder. Kwame has a wonderful voice, and the band are just as good, creating a musical identity that makes every listener warm to them at once. I would love to hear these guys play “In Your Eyes” in concert, as it combines some mellow singing with some frenetic playing to create something that is very special indeed. I dare anyone to hear this album and not fall in love with it immediately, as this is something that you don’t listen to you with your ears, but with your heart. Incredible.