Kwame Binea Shakedown

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Kwame Binea’s personal and artistic evolution extends from his Ghanaian descent, a childhood spent in London and New Jersey, and considerable experience fronting an assortment of musical outfits since his teenage years. Binea and the band’s seven other musicians draw from a deep reservoir of musical influences – reggae, blues, funk, soul, rock, and R&B don’t collide on their debut Kwame Binea Shakedown as much as they mix and weave into a greater whole. This is a bold first step into the future for those forms and, while it isn’t entirely successful, this release gives Binea and his cohorts a colorful template for future greatness.

“Let Go” is a scorching opener that outlines the band’s intentions for anyone listening. Binea’s songwriting, in partnership with guitarist and backing vocalist Justin Wilcox, pushes positive points of view with real practicality instead of the trite platitudes often heard in similar songs. “Hang On”, without question, covers the same sort of themes heard in the opener, but this is a much more musically settled number with a deep groove. The conventional backbeat gives it clearer rock credentials than any other song on the album and doubles down on it with a raucous ending. Perhaps the most musically interesting track on the release, “Little Lady” shows a band and songwriters who understand how the small touches are capable of transforming otherwise mundane material into something greater. The song, about an anonymous girl who captivated Binea’s attention, hinges on the percussion’s hook but is an otherwise well-rounded song musically and lyrically.

The final song on Kwame Binea Shakedown, “Waiting”, has an uncharacteristic opening. Binea and the band reveal another part of their musical vocabulary to listeners with their sensitive acoustic guitar work. Unlike many two guitar bands, Shakedown thankfully rejects any gratuitous musical heroics and pursues fundamental ends. There’s no showboating or excess baggage – even their brief solo spots are geared towards expounding further on the song. Energy is a big reason why Kwame Binea’s debut is memorable, but more than that, it’s tantalizing to hear an emerging artist teetering on the verge of true greatness. The exposure coming to him and his collaborators as a result of Kwame Binea Shakedown will undoubtedly push their songwriting harder on future efforts, but there’s nothing in any of these songs indicating they may not be up for the challenge. Great careers seldom begin with home run shots, but the road ahead is long and wide open for Kwame Binea. Many will join his journey.


Shannon Cowden

8 out of 10 stars.