Posts Tagged 'reggae'

Nathen Maxwell & The Original Bunny Gang

nathen maxwell

After thirteen years playing with Celtic-punk band Flogging Molly, bassist Nathen Maxwell has put out an album from his solo side-project, Nathen Maxwell & The Original Bunny Gang. Teaming up with his drummer father, who goes by the name maxwellvision, their 10-track disc, White Rabbit, was released last week.

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Surprisingly enough, Maxwell’s album does not fit into a punk rock nor Celtic genre at all. Instead, it is an acoustic album with reggae and folk influences, much more delicate sounding than anything Flogging Molly has ever released. Maxwell explains that he grew up listening to reggae and was inspired to put his heartfelt lyrics to reggae’s softer sound. His lyrics range from topics of politics, in “Chief of a Nation” and “Working for the Man,” to the feelings that come along with new love, in “Love Outlaw” and “Love You Mad”; but all songs share Maxwell’s earnest singing.

Maxwell is the first to warn Flogging Molly fans not to expect what they’re used to; and conversely, tells people who are not fans of the punk band to give him a shot. And as for Flogging Molly’s status, the band is still alive and well but has decreased its touring schedule for the year, allowing Maxwell time to work on this project.

Tra.kz Artist Spotlight: Junior Reid (Never Let You Go)

Junior Reid

Hailing from Jamaica’s tough West Kingston Waterhouse district, Junior Reid has been a mainstay of reggae and dance hall music since the 70’s. Junior may be best known as the lead vocalist of Black Uhuru, taking over for Michael Rose in 1985; but in the last few years, he has been infiltrating the hip hop scene. Samples of Junior’s best known hit, “One Blood,” have appeared on the Wu-Tang Clan‘s 2000 album The W, and in The Game’s song “It’s Okay (One Blood).” Junior has also collaborated with Mims to create a remix of his hit “This Is Why I’m Hot.”

Junior’s latest solo album, Living Legend is set to be released October 27th of this year, on Bay Area’s ABB Records. To give you a little taste, he has made his new single, “Never Let You Go,” available through Tra.kz for you to listen to, download and share! After you’ve listened to it, be sure to say hello to Junior on Twitter.

MixMatchMusic Artist Update

Summer concerts are in “full steam ahead”, “pedal to the metal”, “all systems go” phase at this juncture of the earth’s trip around the sun. Festivals are in full swing and summer concert tours are movin’ and shakin’. Speaking of, two MixMatchMusic artists in particular are sweeping the nation, rasta styleeee. John Brown’s Body and Slightly Stoopid are showing these fine states how summer can really be enjoyed, just chillaxin. I had the pleasure of checking out both in the last two weeks. Observe…

John Brown’s Body

John Brown’s Body took over Federal Hill at the 8×10 Club in Baltimore. The house was packed with people of all ages. No joke, I saw a variety of teens, 20 somethings and a handful of parental units decked out in tie dye having a blast. The crowd was friendly, excited and down to bounce to rasta beats. I gotta give it up to the opening act, Passafire who incidentally have a couple of local VA/MD boys in the band. I downright dug their style. It was more of an upbeat, rock/punk/particularly reggae mix. Each song was pretty different so I can’t really put them in one complete category. The keyboardist especially had a ton of energy, as did the whole band. They were a great set up for John Brown’s Body who completely blew me away as well. I was pleasantly surprised by how full their sound was. The band includes a trumpet, sax and trombone player which would bring great vibe to any venue. The lead singer has a captivating voice that puts you into a trance. Also, I’ve never seen a dude half bald, with dreads, kill a mic. I highly suggest checking out this tour if it comes to your city and you like reggae in the least bit. Find future dates HERE. They’ll even be in the UK!!

John Browns Body in Federal Hill, Baltimore

John Brown's Body in Federal Hill, Baltimore

Passafire, killin it!

Passafire, killin' it!

Slightly Stoopid

I’ll go ahead and say it, I’m stoopid for these guys. (Sorry, I had to go there.) I’ve been streaming them a lot lately and honestly, I’m digging the 2am remixes. But, uh, back to the lecture at hand, the Blazed and Confused tour, a whole different scene from the previous concert attended. First of all, the concert was at a beautiful outdoor venue tucked away in the trees of Colombia, MD called Merriweather Post Pavilion. LOVED attending a concert there. They had a great variety of drinks, food and entertainment on top of the actual concert. There’s a club on site for 21+ to get away and grab a drink as well as a music themed pinball arcade, waaaay cool. Second, I’d say the average age was a bit lower than what I’m used to. Slightly Stoopid/Snoop/Stephen Marley, keepin’ it real with the young’ins! As usual, Marley started it off with a crucial reggae style set to open the show. Then… Snoop D-O Double Gizzle hit the mic. He did a bunch of old school stuff which was exactly what the crowd (and myself) was hoping for. Also, Lady of Rage got on the mic and did an Afro Puff segment. Totally took me back to the good ol’ 90’s. Definitely a highlight of Snoop’s set as well as his official smoke break.

Blazed Individual

Blazed Individual

Snoop D-O Double G

Snoop D-O Double G

Slightly Stoopid came on stage with quite the set up. They had 2 large skulls on either side of the stage, lit up totem polls, a hazy Polynesian night themed backdrop, and an array of lighting that gave off a pretty stellar stony ambiance. The crowd was diggin’ their vibe and they often kicked it up a notch with some punk. These San Diegans definitely know how to please a stony crowd. Also, it’s pretty cool that they are headlining the tour.

Stoopid Set Up

Stoopid Set Up

Slightly Stoopid Set Up

Slightly Stoopid Set Up

Slightly Stoopid, kickin it up a knotch

Slightly Stoopid, kickin' it up a knotch

Enjoy the rest of the ’09 summer concerts! Please, you’re welcome to post your comments especially if you’ve checked out either or all of these artists!

Soul Majestic: Groovy Eco-Conscious Reggae

Meet Soul Majestic. Part Jamaican style reggae and part Santa Barbara surf culture, this eclectic collection of activist musicians has come together to make the music that moves them and to promote the causes that stir them.

soulmajestic-press-pic09

The band frequently plays benefit shows meant to rally support for groups promoting promoting peace, environmental education, and the compassionate use of medical marijuana. With the release of their most recent album, Better World (available on iTunes now), and the touring (in their 15-passenger Bio-diesel tour van) to follow, their mission is to raise awareness of global interconnectedness and how people’s actions impact one another and the earth. It’s refreshing to see more bands focus on the positive messages they’re spreading rather than trying to please the masses with radio hits.

What began as the collective vision of Eric Iverson, David Lyons and Brian Jarvis when they met near Santa Barbara soon grew to include Oriana Sanders, a powerful young voice from Los Angeles, and later a handful of vibrant roots musicians. They are now part of LoaTree, an eco-lifestyle collective. As treehugger points out, Soul Majestic empowers the green movement with their music. The lyrics off their new album “ask that each of us take a look at the world around us and choose to empower ourselves to turn things around.”

Want to join their growing family? Have a listen to their groovy sound (or buy some tracks) on their myspace page, check out lyrics on their bandcamp page, follow them on Twitter, or become a fan on Facebook.

It’s encouraging to see such steadfast positivity from upbeat and passionate artists, some of whom have been through very turbulent times. Vocalist Sanders battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which we hear more about in “I Rise”. In addition to overcoming struggle, another theme seen in the new album is the importance of family. Lead singer Eric Iverson has a son together with Sanders and several other band-mates have children as well, which they sometimes bring on tour. The Santa Barbara Independent notes that they are friends with Kim and Jack Johnson who “seem to be spearheading the bring-the-kids-on-the-tour-bus movement.”

Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band

When you hear the word “cover” what comes to mind? Is it a wedding band singing crowd favorites to fill a dance floor? Is it bad karaoke? One of the more unique ways to cover a song is, of course, to recreate it in a different genre. Think Johnny Cash‘s gorgeous rendition of the NIN classic “Hurt”, the tongue-in-cheek folk-rock cover of “Boyz in da Hood” by Dynamite Hack, or even The Fray‘s cover of Kanye West‘s “Heartless” (or American Idol winner Kris Allen’s version for that matter.) Sometimes, the cover song ends up being better or more popular than the original. Just look at this list of greatest cover songs and you’ll probably be surprised at how many of the covers you thought were the originals!

Well, what if you take not just one song, but rather an entire album and recreate it in a different genre? That is precisely what Easy Star Records has been up to. Take a look:

As mentioned above, in 2003 the Easy Star All-Stars released Dub Side of the Moon, a reggae tribute to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. It went on to become one of the most successful reggae albums of the 21st century and spent over 5 years on Billboard’s Top Reggae Chart. As if that wasn’t enough, they then tackled Radiohead’s OK Computer, putting out RadioDread, which spent 18 months on that same chart (and apparently earned some accolades from Radiohead themselves.) Notice anything that those two classic albums have in common? They are both considered (by some) to be concept albums.

Producer Michael Goldwasser, the musical wizard behind much of the All-Star magic says “We’ve focused on re-envisioning concept albums as reggae and it’s really important that the source material works as a whole and is not just a collection of songs. So, what better to take on next than the mother of all concept albums?” He was referring to the one and only Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. If it’s been a while, here’s an interesting breakdown of the songs. And for the real fanatics among you, a little album art history.

Obviously it takes balls to cover the Beatles, let alone the album considered to be one of the most influential and greatest albums of all time. And yet, in April of 2009, the All-Star’s put out Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band. The album features a number of reggae and dub greats including Steel Pulse, Matisyahu, Luciano, and Steel Pulse, along with the usual suspects – the usual suspects being a collection of some of the finest reggae musicians in the New York area.

EasyStarAllStars

What immediately stands out about this album, upon first listen, is how accurately they were able to preserve the vibe of each song. Though each song has been deftly crafted into a vibrant new reggae interpretation of its original, you can almost picture the Beatles nodding their heads in approval in the background because the emotion is the same.

Noteworthy tracks:

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – Frankie Paul’s haunting vocals and the psychedelic guitar and effects stand out, deliciously juxtaposed against the mellow dubbed out percussion and keys, giving this track a certain irresistible je ne sais quoi.

She’s Leaving Home – Singer Kirsty Rock’s mellifluous voice soars delicately above the more upbeat ska-infused high hat and brass section. The reggae style keys come and go, a couple of interesting instrumental breakdowns happen unexpectedly and overall the listener is left constantly wondering what’s next.

This album is unique to say the least. Check it out. And while you’re at it, follow the All-Stars on Twitter.

Tra.kz Artist Spotlight: Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (“Season’s Change”)

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad calls their music North American International Body Music, and Evolving Music couldn’t agree more! They bring a relentless reggae sound that is laced with experimental dub that will keep your head boppin’ and your bones rockin’. Here is a delicious track by them called “Season’s Change“.

giantpandaguerilladub

Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad was formed in 2004, by brothers Matthew and Christopher O’Brian, and mutual friends James Searl and Dylan Savage. The Rochester, New York-based group’s current lineup solidified with the addition of Rachel Orke, and Aaron Lipp. GPGDS plays an eclectic blend of roots reggae, dub, and afrobeat. The sextet’s impeccable musicianship and explosive live show have received widespread acclaim. Giant Panda will be releasing a new album in 2009, but be sure to check out their debut release Slow down.

International Music Spotlight: Japanese Reggae

The first entry in our international music spotlight series focused on Ugandan hip hop. Today we head east to explore Japanese reggae. Numerous sub-genres of reggae have a presence is Japan, though dancehall is arguable the most popular – perhaps due to the erotic nature of the accompanying dance moves? Try googling “Japanese dancehall”. Woah. Anyway. The focus here will simply be on reggae in Japan.

Here’s a little taste: Pang. (Now there’s a girl that looks good with a shaved head.)

Many are surprised to learn that there is a reggae scene in Japan at all. From what I’ve found, the big names seem to include the following: Rankin Taxi, Ackee & Saltfish, Pushim, Ryo The Skywalker, Mighty Crown, Megaryu, Lecca, and DJ Tokiyas.

Megaryu is one of my favorites. Check out this song. There’s something about it that reminds me of a Los Pericos song, Pupilas Lejanas…perhaps it’s the juxtaposition of a sad, sort of soaring melody filled with melancholy (at least that’s the emotion that I get from it without actually understanding the words) against a light, simple reggae beat.

According to the Rastafari Wikipedia page: “A small but devoted Rasta community developed in Japan in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Rasta shops selling natural foods, Reggae recordings, and other Rasta-related items sprang up in Tokyo, Osaka, and other cities. For several years, “Japan Splashes” or open-air Reggae concerts were held in various locations throughout Japan.”

In recent years, dancehall reggae has emerged as the dominant form of reggae in Japan. One might wonder why that particular subgenre has risen to the top. What is it about dancehall that appeals to its fans in Japan? Do the faster-paced, more flashy, less political/religious facets of dancehall resonate more closely with Japanese culture? Or just with a subset of energetic Japanese youth?

Perhaps Blake More can shed some light on these questions with his unique dissection of the culture, Jamming in Jah Pan.


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