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Published: 2011/11/01
by Brian Robbins

The Green
Ways & Means

Easy Star Records

Drop the needle on “Keep On”, the opening cut on The Green’s sophomore outing Ways & Means, and the immediate vibe is old, sweet, and rootsy as they come. Simple little guitar figures woven around quick rhythm flourishes usher in the tune with the slightest hint of tension, then – BANG – the main riff takes charge, synthed faux horn line bumping against traditional skanked-out underpinnings, shored up by tumbling drums and rumbling bass.

And then the vocals arrive on the scene: “I’m on the road racing/Nobody knows my name/No one knows what I’m thinking/Boom – there goes the fire; I’m insane again …” and you realize that this is a much younger band than you might think. And you also realize it’s a band with some serious vocal chops, featuring a four-man front line who can pass the mic around without a bobble. Pretty cool.

Hailing from Hawaii, the core four of The Green (vocalist Caleb Keolanui; guitarist/vocalist JP Kennedy; keyboardist/vocalist Ikaika Antone; and Zio Thompson, who can lay down some cool percussion if his hands aren’t holding a ukulele or guitar – along with vocals) have definitely found their own sound. The Green weaves old-school reggae with thick threads of soul and R&B in a manner that’s respectful and appropriate.

Take “Got Me In Love”, for instance: that’s nothing but a total beach groove with a easy-gliding chorus that’s made for a boom box in the summer sun with a rumpbump bass line underneath. “Love Is Strong” chuck-chuck-chucks along with a vintage vibe supporting vocals both powerful and pure. (Imagine lead vox backed by an all-male version of the I Threes, if you will.) “Jah Love” is testimony to that very thing with tasty bits of acoustic guitar throughout. And “Love & Affection” is pumped full of an infectious hit-the-dance-floor pulse guaranteed to make you wiggle something while you listen.

Shoot, there are moments that you could almost call poppish without it being negative: “Gotta Be” features sweetly-layered voices but never loses its groove. Same for “Come In” (featuring guest vocals by Jacob Hemphill of SOJA) or “She Was The Best” – lesser hands would’ve over-polished the tunes and taken the life out of them. The Green (with loving oversight in the studio by the Easy Star team) pull off song after song on Ways & Means, coupling some beautiful harmonies with enough thump and grit to keep it real.

Keep an eye and an ear on these guys.

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