Kwame D is a trio from near Leeds who over the past few years have been gaining a healthy profile and making inroads into the acoustic-world-music market with their vibrant performances at a host of weird and wonderful venues ranging from pubs and arts centres to coffee (and café) bars to folk and acoustic clubs and community street parties! They comprise Kwame Yempew (vocals, guitars) and Jeff Willacy (percussion). Originally, their act mixed a selection of high-quality crowd-pleaser covers of soul and reggae material with Kwame's own songs, predominantly soulful but with a pleasing summery sunshine groove; they released a five-track CD a couple of years ago, which was a sensible enough calling-card in that it showcased the duo's individual strengths and hinted well at the extent of the promise to come. That promise is fulfilled on this much more than creditable full-length album release.
Not only is the production pretty much ideal for the duo's particular blend - uncluttered yet atmospheric in all the right ways, and you can hear every subtle touch - But Kwame's songwriting has advanced considerably since the days of the EP; he shows an enviable and wholly natural mastery of reggae, soul and R&B idioms without being in any way derivative, encompassing juicy and well-realised world beats while all the time being possessed of a very keen commercial ear. He writes with an infectious upbeat optimism and an acute sense of flair that demonstrates a real insider's appreciation of the grooves - I'm convinced that Don't Give In and Party For The World (to cite two of many examples on this release) could quite easily make it into the charts, but very much at the quality end you understand! - while there's an authentic joyful township feel to Soaring and at the other end of the spectrum a genuine deep emotional pull at the heart of songs like African Boy.
However, not only is Kwame's songwriting right in there, but his singing is top-class too - strongly characterised, wonderfully lithe and abundantly soulful (sorry, that word again!), and expressive in all the right ways (though just occasionally with a little too much vibrato for some tastes perhaps). Jeff's percussion work (djembe, bongos and various shakey and clashy things) is empathic in all the best senses without ever smothering Kwame's vocals or compromising the rhythmic impact of his guitar figures, which display an impressively natural absorption of African stylings; it's impeccably recorded too. Kwame D are a great live act, and this CD does them real justice without trading any concessions.