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SOJA "Get Wiser Live" Innerloop

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Friday, November 16, 2007

SOJA"Get Wiser Live"Innerloop

WHEN SOJA RECORDED the "Get Wiser Live" DVD, a bonus-added concert version of its "Get Wiser" album, at the State Theatre in Falls Church nearly two years ago, the Virginia-based reggae roots band packed the house and stacked the deck. With an expanded lineup that featured guest appearances by conga player Milton "Go Go Mickey" Freeman of Rare Essence, the Eddie Drennon String Quartet and members of the Puerto Rican reggae band Gumba Jahbari, Soja gave the capacity crowd what it came to hear, and then some.

But even without additional help, Soja (short for Soldiers of Jah Army) has no difficulty demonstrating why it has become a big concert draw. Frontman and songwriter Jacob Hemphill's voice -- a pinched, soulful tenor -- immediately sets the band's sound apart, and bassist Bobby Lee Jefferson's vocals add appealingly gruff and exuberant contrasts. A devotion to conscious roots music couldn't be more obvious on "Be Aware," "My Faith," "Bring Back Truth" and other tracks, but the band's melodic flair and percolating grooves are key to its growing appeal.

That's never more evident than when Freeman teams with the band for an extended version of "Sorry." The string section and Gumba Jahbari's horns and vocals are also welcome on other performances, with the latter helping to underscore Soja's affinity for Latin-tinged funk. (Hemphill's Santana-esque guitar solos surface throughout the concert, too.)

The extras include the usual backstage visit and two bonus tracks that sum up Soja's recurring themes: "Rasta Courage" and "True Love."

-- Mike Joyce

Appearing Wednesday at the State Theatre (703-237-0300,http://www.thestatetheatre.com). Doors open at 7.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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