Scratch Track mixes funk, jazz

Danny Mark of Scratch Track performs in Union's Barefoot's Joe, Sept. 18. | Photo by Victoria Stargel

By Margaret Brinson

Scratch Track, the performers behind Barefoots Joe’s first concert of the semester, were seemingly well-received by students as they achieved the nearly impossible on Sept. 18.

In a room where audiences usually remain seated quietly in their chairs, students were on their feet and clapping to the rhythm of the beat. When asked to repeat a lyric by lead vocalist and beatboxer DJ Lee, the crowd complied, shouting back the lines with smiles.

Other band members include Jason Hamlin as guitarist and vocalist and Danny Mark on the baritone and tenor saxophones.

Megan Thompson, junior art major, has been listening to the group since before they called themselves Scratch Track. She said she enjoyed the music, and thought other students felt the same way.

“The sound was really cool and new and upbeat. Of course I liked the beatboxing a lot, and he did it really well,” Thompson said. “I felt like everybody responded really well. I mean, they knew how to play to the crowd.”

During the show, a solo beatboxing performance by Lee boggled the crowd, while Hamlin surprised students by whipping two pencils out of his pocket and beating his guitar strings like a drum. During another song he also played harmonica while strumming. This unconventional combination of instruments makes an even less common sound.

When asked to describe their music, the band mates threw out a slew of descriptors: “Acoustic.” “Blues.” “Kind of an experimental hybrid.” “A lot of soul, a lot of funk.” “Folk.” “Jazz.”

Lee, native of Kansas City, Kan., brings the blues to the band with a full voice somewhere between gospel and funk. Hamlin, from right outside of Detroit, Mich., leans more in the direction of rock, country and folk. Hailing from Rochester, N.Y., Mark and his saxophones supply the jazz.

Their musical differences were even evidenced in their apparel: Lee’s sweatbands were indicative of strong hip-hop undertones, Hamlin rocked a pair of cowboy boots and Mark jammed in city-slick metallic sneakers.

The group claims a special connection with the university as birthplace of the band. It is where founding members Lee and Hamlin first met and performed as students.

“We did this one song at Variety Show, and the whole school lost their minds,” Lee said.

After that, he said the two began to consider more seriously making a career of their music, which they both studied in school. While Lee concentrated on voice, Hamlin’s focus was guitar.

After Lee’s graduation in May 2002, the band packed up and moved to Washington, D.C., and got started playing at clubs.

Scratch Track has since played with groups such as O.A.R., Los Lonely Boys, Will Hoge, Soulive, DJ Skribble, The Roots, Twista, Erykah Badu, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, and more.

The band also toured several countries including Japan, Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the U.K., while performing for the U.S. Armed Forces.

“We support our troops and wanted to really give back to them because they’re always in our minds and hearts,” Hamlin said on their website.

Scratch Track is now back on tour in the United States in preparation for the release of their latest album. The album was released Sept. 20.

“We feel like it’s our best to date,” Lee said. “We’ve been hiding underground for a while now, and it’s time for the world to hear our music.”

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.