Album Review: DC’s Own Backbeat Underground – The Labor Day Sessions

Backbeat Underground – The Labor Day Sessions


By Ragin Randy Harris

When the music calls, you just got to get down! Backbeat Underground has provided the soundtrack, so all you need to do is listen and let your body do the rest. The Labor Day Sessions is a three-track EP release from the DC-based funk/soul/jazz fusion band, recorded at Bias Studios in Springfield, VA over Labor Day weekend 2016. The five-piece band consists of Paul Haney (keys), RJ James (Drums), Gerald Pierce (bass), Satya Thallam (saxophone), and John Wedeles (guitar), and together, they have put together a record that will make even the stiffest listeners move and shake like nobody’s watching.

The release kicks off with “Mine, Mine, Mine,” which features the lovely vocals of Pamela Lawrence. The lyrics in the chorus offer an enticing twist, as she belts out, “Just say you’re mine, mine, mine. Don’t let me walk away.” The instrumentation is similarly enticing, beginning with a funky verse, erupting into a euphoric chorus and simmering into a soft bridge with gentle guitar tones.

The intro to “The Less I Know The Better” consists of a percussion jam that blossoms until you just know it’s going to be a heater. The Caribbean style percussion gets your shoulders moving until the guitar jumps in like a laser. The guitar harmony lays the final layer of the build-up, and then it’s off to the races! This tune has a unique ability to stay relatively constant without ever seeming repetitive. The groove guides you from start to finish as it ends with one final blast.

Sexy keys open up the intro of “4645” until the drums and bass kick up the groove. Melodic jazz chords and fittingly placed guitar and sax leads send your mind up to the clouds. Of particular note in this tune are the keyboard solo toward the end of the song, as well as an unexpected outro that brings back some of the Caribbean vibe from the previous song to cap off an epic three-song ride.

Overall, these three songs represent a great snapshot of the band’s body of work. A follow up to the release of their debut, self-titled record, The Labor Day Sessions invokes a reeling emotion and stays true to the groove. Funk and jazz are alive and well in our nation’s capital, and these guys are definitely doing their part to keep that soul alight. The Labor Day Sessions was released on October 14, 2016 and is currently available on Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and more.

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