Mention folk music to the average listener and the list of usual suspects come to mind: Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Woodie Guthrie, etc. Talk to SOJA lead singer/guitarist Jacob Hemphill, however, and you'll walk away with a different perspective. "To me, Rage Against The Machine, Wu -Tang Clan, Sade, Johnny Cash, Bob Marley – they're all folk artists," he says. "There's no difference between Raekwo...n saying, 'I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side, where staying alive was no jive,' to Bob Marley saying, 'Cold ground was my bed last night and rock was my pillow, too,' to Johnny Cash saying, 'I know I had it coming, I know I can't be free, but those people keep on moving (around) and that's what tortures me.' Folk is all about storytelling and passing on a legacy. It's timeless, it's limitless and it crosses all boundaries. That's what this band is striving for. It's a tall order," he laughs, "but we're making our way."
They're raising the bar with Strength to Survive, their fourth full-length album, an intoxicating mix of hot-rod reggae grooves and urgent, zeitgeist-capturing themes. The album, produced by John Alagia (Dave Matthews, John Mayer, O.A.R.), will be the band's first for ATO, the label co-founded by Dave Matthews.
Hemphill says the album was greatly inspired by Bob Marley's Survival. "That's the greatest reggae album ever made," he says. "It has the best basslines and the best lyrics ever heard on one record. Marley wrote it after he went to Africa. I was 13 or 14 when I listened to it for the first time and it triggered all these long-forgotten memories of when I lived in Africa as a kid. My dad was an IMF res rep in Liberia in the late 80's. I remember when the coup first started --- my family had to hide in these iron bathtubs for 3 days because the military was shooting at everything. I was 7 and that was one of my first memories. We made it out on the last flight. So Africa was always a big part of our lives --- it defined our family, in a way. Music came right after that, so, for me, music was always tied to Africa and music was always something powerful."
Shortly after returning from Africa, Hemphill met Bobby Lee (bass) in the first grade in Virginia. The two instantly became best friends, finding common ground through their love of hip hop, rock and reggae which they performed together at their middle school talent shows. Throughout high school, they met Ryan Berty (drums), Kenneth Brownell (percussion) and Patrick O'Shea (keyboards) and together formed SOJA. The band gigged locally in the DC area while a couple of the guys finished school, all the while making plans to hit the road after graduation. They actually wound up owning the road.
Over the course of the past few years, SOJA has sold more than 150,000 albums, headlined large theaters in more than 15 countries around the world, generated over 20 million+ YouTube views, amassed more than a half-million Facebook fans, and attracted an almost Grateful Dead-like international fanbase that grows with each tour, with caravans of diehards following them from city to city. Most impressive of all, they've accomplished all this on their own. This 7-piece band has spent the past year and a half grinding it out from venue to venue, playing more than 360 dates, including headlining sold-out tours of North and South America, as well as opening for O.A.R. and sharing stages with everyone from Dave Matthews Band to Matisyahu.
With Strength to Survive, the band makes an impassioned call for unity and change with universally relatable songs about faith, hope and love. "I could go on and on about the horrible damage we've done to the earth or the problems that arise when countries compete for money over an imaginary border, but the album has one central theme," says Hemphill, "and that's our hope for the world to be one family."
It's a concept best exemplified in the song "Everything Changes." "People out there with no food at night," sings Hemphill, "And we say we care, but we don't, so we all lie/But what if there's more to this, and one day we become what we do, not what we say/Maybe we need to want to fix it. Maybe stop talking, maybe start listening/ Maybe we need to look at this world less like a square and more like a circle."
Among the album's many highlights is the ethereal "Let You Go," about the road not taken, "Mentality," the disc's hard-hitting opening track, and the one-two punch of "Be With Me Now" and "When We Were Younger," the latter bringing together the macro and the micro with the simple yet resonant line, "All of my answers, now that I'm older, turn into questions."
Hemphill says the band's simple and honest approach to music is what's enabled them to break through obstacles of language, distance and culture in amassing an international following. "What's the alternative – pop music?" he laughs. "Pop music—especially American pop music, is about having money, sleeping with models, living in mansions, spending all of our time in clubs and generally being better than the rest of the world. It's funny, 'cuz everyone here is broke. We sing about different things—things that actually matter. I think our fans appreciate that."
"When I look out in the audience and I see these kids with tears in their eyes, not because I'm singing a love song, but because I'm singing about how the world is dying and we're the only ones who can stop it, that is huge. I live for that. We played a festival in Brazil in front of 80,000 people, and everybody was singing every word—in English. After one of the songs, I told them, 'We're on the road a lot, and people always ask me, "Don't you ever get homesick? Don't you miss your family?" I said, 'It took me awhile to realize this, but this is my home, and you all are my family.' The place just blew up. It was amazing. But it's the truth—those are my people and I always want to do right by them. It's is the only game in town for me."

A rock band with punk energy and pop reggae grooves, Baltimore’s BALLYHOO! are a fun, fan-loving powerhouse. These road dogs have tirelessly toured coast-to-coast taking their music to the people. Between the road and the studio, BALLYHOO! have crafted a sound distinctly their own; fresh, fun, and embodied by the soul of the party lifestyle. Lead singer and guitarist, Howi Spangler, has a reputation for mixing slick lyrics with his smooth but powerful voice. Drummer Donald “Big D” Spangler lays out the hard-hitting beats, which are underlined by JR Gregory’s funky and witty bass lines. Scott Vandrey (aka DJ Blaze) rounds it out on the turntables and keys.

BALLYHOO!’s unique sound, hardcore devotion to the road and their fans has pitched them into snowballing success. The band has performed with a myriad of national touring acts; 311, Slightly Stoopid, SOJA, The Dirty Heads, Matisyahu, and more. In 2011, after concluding the Last Calls and Liabilities tour with respected contemporaries, Pepper, they were honored with being included on the ever-popular Hollister Holiday Playlist. They were listed on MTV’s Top 100 Bands to Watch and even featured 2 downloadable songs on the popular video game ROCK BAND. Tour highlights include the 2011 311 Pow Wow Festival, the 2012 311 Caribbean Cruise, Bamboozle 2012, & the entire 2012 Vans Warped Tour.

Jah Works is a band of brothers based out of Baltimore, MD dedicated to writing, recording and performing original reggae music. While rooted firmly in the tradition of authentic Jamaican roots and dancehall, the band also blend elements of hip hop and popular music into their mix. A heavy dose of drum and bass combined with sweet melodies and catchy hooks are the groups' trademarks.
Formed officially in the spring of 1993, Jah Works have been blazing up the live music scene ever since. With an average of 200 plus shows a year they have covered a lot of ground in their time together. Though best known on the East Coast, Jah Works has played throughout the US as well as internationally in Jamaica, Canada, Holland, the South Pacific, and the Middle East. The band is honored to have taken part in Armed Forces Entertainment which provides shows for troops stationed abroad. They also recently performed in Washington DC for the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
With an independent mindset and a strong work ethic, the band has written and produced 8 albums to date. Through the help of a dedicated fan base, the internet, and their relentless tour schedule, they have sold close to 100,000 records. The band is currently finishing up its ninth album and is planning a tour in support of its release.
Known for their high energy, party style atmosphere, Jah Works' live shows appeal to both reggae and non reggae listeners alike. Comfortable in any environment, the band has played numerous music festivals, large and small venues, colleges, and private parties. They have been fortunate to share the stage with some notable international acts including Buju Banton, Toots and the Maytals, Culture, Burning Spear, UB40, and Damian Marley , as well as with their brothers in arms, John Browns Body and SOJA. When not on tour Jah Works can be found working on new material at their home studio in Baltimore.

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SOJA with BALLYHOO, Jah Works

Saturday, December 28 · Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:00 PM at Rams Head Live

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