Midnight Album Spotlight – The High Decibels – The High Decibels

Let’s talk for a moment about “force field albums.” Force field albums are records that make you feel good no matter what. Records that block out negative energy. Over the years I’ve found many of them: Lily Allen’s Alright, Still, the Ocean’s Eleven soundtrack, Bob Marley’s Natty Dread, The Beatles’ Let It Be. But my latest is from an Oakland band who recently stepped up and took a risk.

The High Decibels frontman Duke Johnson has been rapping since he was in junior high school. And during one school talent show, while he was freestyling, the CD started skipping and he was booed offstage. So he turned to the spoken word scene, huge in the Bay Area, and became a master at slams. Duke hit on subjects from real life, including shootings in his neighborhood, personal challenges and the state of the union.

One day at a slam poetry show in Berkeley, CA, (my alma mater) Duke met up with blues/funk/rock guitarist KC Booker. And although their songs sound like they have looped the acoustic guitar on a computer, the riffs are actually played live. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a band loop blues before. And to play it live. Never.

The High Decibels started out playing house parties (It’s really hard for an unknown band to get a gig in the Bay Area, much harder than it is in Seattle). Here they are at a Berkeley yard party.

Do you feel the force field? The High Decibels two main MCs — Duke Johnson and Chief play off of each other with increasing energy. They got live drums and bass. And KC Booker is playing blues, funk, rock and pop riffs LIVE! According to the website, the West Coast tour is coming. I’ll see you there.

Meanwhile… Take a page from the High Decibel’s book. “Crash With No Cushion.” And may the force be with you…

Join DJ Michele Myers for Nite Life — every Friday night at 9pm on KEXP. This Friday at 12 she’ll do this Midnight Album Spotlight, playing 3 songs from the album and telling the story. She also produces KEXP Documentaries — short radio features. KEXP Documentaries series include Punk Evolution, Masters of Turntablism, The Heart of Soul, Music Revolutionaries, Death, Drugs and Rock n Roll and the latest: Portraits of Post-Punk.

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