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Category: reggae music

Lurid, Lyrical, Lynchian Sounds From Eclectic New Mexican Kristy Hinds

Songwriter Kristy Hinds has played everything from 80s-inspired rock, to bossa nova and other tropical, often trippy sounds. Mentored as a gradeschooler by Bo Diddley – a fellow rancher in her native New Mexico – she began as a singer and percussionist, moved to guitar and most recently, ukulele. Lately she’s taken a surreal, absolutely Lynchian plunge into dub reggae. Just as auspiciously, she scored John Funkhouser – a rare triple threat on jazz piano, organ and bass – to join her on her latest short album Play Me Out, streaming at her music page.

“This is when the road divides, this is when I’ll break your heart, this is where the violence starts…play me out,” she teases luridly in the ep’s title track. “Rich men in the white coats, and the shark teeth” don’t hold up too well here.

On the second song, Feeling Good, Hinds rises out of murky mystery to stark, spare reggae with a sleek, slinky organ solo. Funkhouser’s creepy bass drone underneath is luscious. For the last song, Hinds reinvents Fleetwood Mac’s Gold Dust Woman at just about doublespeed, as straight-up backbeat rock – and, it’s cool to be able to actually understand the song’s lyrics for once! Funkhouser winds it up with a crashing, crescendoing piano solo.

Hinds also has a ton of music up at her Soundcloud page, a mix of rock, jazz and latin styles. And she has a fearlessly populist sensibility: check out Images in a Box, her snarky anti-corporate media broadside. Her next gig is at 5 PM on July 18 at Corrales Bistro Brewery, 4908 Corrales Rd. in Corrales, New Mexico.

Fun with Singles and Protest Songs, March 17 Edition

Lots of laughs today, but also dead seriousness. Click on artist names for their webpages, click on song titles for streaming audio or video.

Media Bear is back with another great protest song, Stick Me With Your Death Shot, set to the tune of the Pat Benatar hit. “Don’t stick me with your kill shot, mRNA!” The video, a pastiche of embarrassing on-camera gaffes by Bill Gates, is priceless, especially the very end. Thanks to Mark Crispin Miller for this one.

Ryan Long asks what happens When Supporting Ukraine Is Your New Identity, in a three-minute LMAO standup comedy skit in the Alphabet City projects. Just to be clear, this a satire of virtue signaling, not a dis of the many Ukrainian people in the neighborhood.

You want metaphorical? Wrap your brain around Mary Lee Kortes’ images in her band Mary Lee’s Corvette’s new song Sound of the Sea. Gently pulsing folk-rock sets the stage:

Little shanty town
Glistens like a crown
Memories abound in the deep
See the shanty town
How many have drowned
Listening to the sound of the sea
Drowning in your debts
Currents and regrets
Echoed in the sound of the sea

Girl-down-the-well singer Helena Deland‘s latest single Swimmer is hypnotic and drenched in regret: you could call it Marissa Nadler lite

The video for Maita‘s growling, propulsive postpunk single Honey Have I Lost It All is pretty irresistible, even if it’s a little obvious. Frontwoman Maria Maita-Keppeler really gets a workout here.

Let’s wind up the playlist with a couple of defiantly inspiring roots reggae tunes. Prezence have a whole page of videos including Scam, which has a seriously powerful message for 2022: “Individuals suffer and die is the way of the tyrant…rise up, silence is compliance.”

Another standout track, Losin Dey Mind (scroll down the page a bit), has a hilarious video. Hang with the guy as he puts stuff in his shopping cart: the ending is worth the wait.

The Spy From Cairo Keeps Making Deliciously Serpentine Middle Eastern Dub Sounds

For more than a decade, one-man band Moreno “Zeb” Visini has been making wildly psychedelic dubwise Middle Eastern dance music under the name The Spy From Cairo. Oud and saz lute are his main axes, but he’s also adept at keyboards, guitar, bass and drums. As usual, he plays everything with expertise and a wry sense of humor on his new vinyl record Animamundi, streaming at Bandcamp.

He was able to record the album in his home country of Italy despite the fascist restrictions which are still in place there, since he does all the music himself with a little transcontinental input from talented vocalists on the web. The central message is freedom. If there are bouncy castles at the rallies in Rome, this is the kind of stuff that freedom fighters (and their kids) could re-energize with. There are a ton of flavors on this record, all held together by lusciously chromatic maqams.

He gets off to a strong start with the title track. a brisk Egyptian reggae tune built around a catchy, scampering, biting oud lead track. Daf frame drum booms in the background, “Information of creation is stored in our DNA,” a rasta explains in the voiceover at the end. No doubt!

Asssembled around a catchy chromatic riff, Beautiful Baraka, featuring Adil Smaali is a chaabi-reggae-rap mashup with a couple of keyboards trading off in a wry call-and-response. Black Sea comes across as a trebly dub plate with wah-wah oud. Visini balances another slithery, catchy oud riff against microtonal roller-rink organ in Cosmic Pasha, then takes a deep plunge into Middle Eastern cumbia in Criminal, with Mambe Rodriguez taking a coy turn on vocals.

Divination has a more enigmatic Balkan-flavored tune, but Visini works anthemic string synth riffs into it. He goes back to a brisk cumbia groove, adding layers of cifteli lute and a scrambling oud solo in Extraterrestre, featuring Andalucian vocalist Carmen Estevez. Hamsa Shuffle has lusciously microtonal violin and a blippy, hypnotic cumbia sway, while Mizmirized has otherworldly zurna oboe and a swaying rai beat.

Visini ripples and pings his way through Qanun in Dub, a reggae tune and one of the most unselfconsciously gorgeous tracks on the record. Seeds of Culture is a loopy Indian-flavored song with snakecharmer ney flute over a rai rhythm and an unexpectedly bristling oud outro (is there such a word as “oudtro?”). The final cut, Ya Wuldani features guests Fatou Gozlan & Duo Darbar and is arguably the most psychedelic, dubwise number. It’s awfully early in the year to be talking about the best albums of 2022, but this is one of them.

A Predictably Funny Hit and an Unexpectedly Diverse New Album From Reggae Road Warriors Artikal Sound System

The Artikal Sound System song that everybody knows is You’re an Asshole. It’s the latest in a long, long line of viral commodities to benefit from the music world’s most predictably successful marketing strategy. For those who haven’t yet been exposed, the song is a mashup of roots reggae, corporate urban pop and a famous top 40 hit from the 1960s. And it will leave you laughing.

Artikal Sound System have a predictably good sense of humor and a thing for initials: their latest album, streaming at Soundcloud, is titled Welcome to Florida, These days, that’s even better marketing than ever. They’re basically a reggae group but also take occasional detours into hip-hop, oldschool new wave pop and ska. Frontwoman Logan Rex helps distinguish their sound from the legions of dreadlocked dudes out there.

The album gets off to a false start with Stayed. a mashup of icy 80s new wave electro and neosoul. Firehouse is a trippy, dubby straight-up roots reggae jam: it’s surreal to hear the guys in the band supplying the I-Threes style “she oop oop” backing vocals. That’s Chris Montague on guitar, Fabian Acuña on bass. Christopher Cope on keys and Adam Kamp on drums.

With its catchy blend of woozy synths, Too Soon is a good vehicle for Rex’s coy, chirpy voice. When I Wanna, featuring a stoner rap by Little Stranger, is the opposite of wake-and-bake: Rex explains that she went to bed high since she’d been high all day.

Spiritual Broadcaster is a surprisingly venomous dis at mass media brainwashing: bring it on, Logan! She takes a hard look at the perils of thug life in Cops and Robbers, then the band go back to blippy 80s new wave for Pull Me Close.

The most musically adventurous and most Marley-influenced track is You’re Not There. What’s up with the ringtone that pops into the middle of Happy? A stoner joke? The album’s final cut is Bald Tires. a cheery, determined tune that any touring band can relate to.

The band are on the road in another free state, Texas, right now, with a gig tonight, Feb 11 at around 9 at Scout Bar, 18307 Egret Bay Blvd. in Houston; cover is $20. Joey Harkum, who seems to want to be Zac Brown, opens the night at 8; another good reggae band, the Bumpin Uglies, headline at around 10. Tomorrow night, Feb 12 they move on to Sam’s Burger Joint, 330 E Grayson St. in San Antonio for five bucks less.

A Playlist Inspired by and in Support of the Freedom Convoy

The Freedom Convoy to our north has triggered more than just a global revolution. There’s also been an explosion of genuine folk music in support of the heroic Canadian truckers. As just one example, give a listen to Daisy Moses Friends & Kin doing Keep On’ Truckin’ Against Tyranny. Just a family sitting around somebody’s phone, everybody joining in, somebody playing the melody to Neil Young’s Heart of Gold on an acoustic guitar. This is the future of music.

Somebody else who’s looking to the future while looking back is dancehall reggae artist Remeece, who has lyrical skills to match his political fearlessness. And his videos can be pricelessly funny. Watch him as he fires off the lyrics to Don’t Tek Di Vaccine while completely unmuzzled on the London tube, right in the face of a bunch of muzzled passengers. Now, they might be actors, but you have to admit it’s a beautiful image.

Remeece has more than just one pro-freedom song, too:

Big Pharma dem a thief and government are losers
Kick Pfizer in de batty with size 17 boota…
Babylonian play tricks, remove them from your playlist

That’s from the song Boosta. The third and final song on this video page is Choose Your Side: “Goodbye to de billionaires queues yeah, Bill Gates don’t get it confused yeah, we’re coming for you and your crew yeah.”

The truckers’ theme song is We Drive, by Larry Beckstead. It’s a CW McCall style country anthem:

It was jab or job that in was their log on the day it all began
When those diesel dudes had a change of mood and drew a deep line in the sand

Download it here; thanks to novelist and freedom fighter John C.A. Manley for passing it along

Aussie exile singer Paul Seils’ Hold the Line echoes that fearlessness: “Never to be enslaved again, billions of us rising, united to the very end.” The video is awesome.

Penny Little of the Away Team was inspired to record her solo anthem Stand Up for Freedom, which also has an inspiring and spot-on video pastiche. “It’s a slippery slope and we can’t go back, we’re the tip of the iceberg I’m telling you that.” Thanks to the irreplaceable Mark Crispin Miller for passing this one along, along with the Remeece and Daisy Moses clips. His daily News From Underground listserv has been a useful and often prophetic source for years, but in the past several weeks it’s become a second New York Music Daily. If you like what’s on this page, you may want to subscribe to his.

Let’s end today’s playlist with a somber, twelve-minute dirge to remind us that our job is not over yet and that we still have grim realities to confront. Eight Bells’ The Well is twelve minutes of otherworldly, close-harmonied vocals over a backdrop that sounds like the Cure circa Pornography with more of a metal influence and a woman out front

In an amusing and unexpectedly heartwarming development, an “unacceptable” Canadian judge ordered the Ottawa police to return the cache of fuel they’d stolen from the convoy on Tuesday night.

Bob Marley Classics Stripped Down and Reinvented For Bass and Vocals

What better way to kick off the year than an epic collection of material by one of the greatest protest songwriters of all time? On their album 400 – streaming at SpotifyAcute Inflections reinvent Bob Marley songs via imaginative arrangements for bass and vocals. Singer Elasea Douglas brings a summery, resolute delivery and subtle jazz inflections to a diverse mix of classics and rare gems.

Likewise, bassist Sadiki Pierre uses Family Man Barrett’s melodic low end on the originals as a stepping-off point but doesn’t always play them note for note, adding emphatic flourishes and forward drive. If you love Marley’s music, the starkness of these songs drives home his defiant, impassioned lyrics while reminding how crucial Barrett’s low end was to his bandleader’s sound. Pierre also doesn’t play as far behind the beat as Barrett did, and his E string is always in tune. Seriously – listen to side one of Rastaman Vibration, for example, and you’ll notice that the low bass is almost as flat as it is fat.

The duo open the album with about a minute of 400 Years and revisit the theme throughout the record for a terse reminder of the music’s historical context. They set the stage for much of the rest of the songs with Stir It Up, the harmonies from the bass hovering above the vocal line. Pierre doesn’t wait til halfway through the first verse of Is This Love before he shifts from the original, Douglas offering cheery enticement overhead.

“Many more will have to suffer, many more will have to die,” she intones somberly in a syncopated, more-or-less straight-up 4/4 take of Natural Mystic. And the sheer desolation of a long, expansive remake of I Shot the Sheriff will give you chills.

The first of the rarities is All Day All Night, a good choice considering how interesting the bass riffage is. The other is High Tide or Low Tide, which the two take as far outside as any of the songs here

The rest of the album is a mix of party songs and freedom fighter anthems. Pierre has fun swinging Could You Be Loved harder than any other bassist ever has, then a little later completely flips the script in Waiting in Vain. And Jamming turns out to be better suited to brisk swing jazz than you would imagine.

Douglas changes up the rhythm to One Love – and in 2022, that line about “The hopeless sinner, who would hurt all mankind just to save his own,” seems absolutely prophetic. Pierre’s slinky intro to Douglas’ poignant take of Concrete Jungle is one of the album’s high points. And who would have thought that Redemption Song, the closest thing to a strummy American folk song Marley ever wrote, would work so evocatively as a stark gospel tune?

Douglas’ vocalese at the beginning of Slave Driver is more energetically impassioned. The two bounce through a jaunty, determined take of Get Up Stand Up and reinvent Exodus as a similarly upbeat, swaying, rootsy tune. This is just as much fun as Monty Alexander’s far more elaborate remakes of Marley classics.

Acoustic Reggae and Similar Rarities by a Fixture of the NYC Parks Concert Circuit on the Upper East

Other than Bob Marley’s iconic Redemption Song – “How long must they kill our brothers while we stand aside and look?” – there’s hardly any acoustic reggae. In fourteen and a half years of concerts in what was once the live music capitol of North America, this blog and its predecessor covered exactly one acoustic reggae show, by Jamaican toaster I-Wayne. And that was a private performance for media, in the fall of 2011 in a west side studio with ganja smoke seeping out through cracks in the door.

But if you’re in Manhattan on Oct 29 and you can get to Second Avenue and 90th St. by 3 PM, you might see some acoustic reggae when ukulele player Dahlia Dumont and her group the Blue Dahlia play Ruppert Park.

Dumont has been plugged into the municipal concert circuit for the past several years, and her passion for reggae and ska matches her fondness for playing outdoors. She writes in English and her native French, in lots of other styles ranging from French varietés pop to Balkan music. Her most recent, characteristically eclectic album La Tradition Américaine got the thumbs up here in 2018.

She’s put out more material since that record, streaming at her music page. At the top, there’s Betty, a characteristically bouncy, horn-spiced quasi-ska song encouraging everybody to stop complaining about the status quo and police brutality, and go out and vote. En Dehors du Temps (Outside of Time) is a lot quieter, a wistfully waltzing familial reminiscence. Dumont recorded The Walls during the 2020 lockdown, an understatedly angst-fueled piano ballad about a relationship interrupted by fascist travel restrictions. “If we make it to the other side, will you be much changed?” she asks, speaking for as many people as Marley did with Redemption Song.

Nobody at this blog has ever caught a full set by Dumont. The closest was about the last twenty minutes of a show where she squeezed a good-sized band, including guitar, accordion and rhythm section, into an intimate Park Slope space a few months before the album came out. Dumont has also been a fixture at the annual late-November outdoor music festival that ran down Broadway from Dante Park across from Lincoln Center down to Columbus Circle. She brought a stripped-down trio to those shows, as she most likely will do at the Upper East Side park gig. She has an expressive voice, boundless energy and a sense of humor, all things we all could use right now.

New York Underground Legends Faith Bring Their Shapeshifting Sound Outside

Faith are one of the most individualistic and resilient bands in the history of the downtown scene. They’re also one of the very few left from that era. As far back as the 80s, frontwoman Felice Rosser made a mark with her imaginative, melodic, reggae-inspired bass playing and a distinctive, earthy contralto voice with a disarming falsetto. They have some outdoor shows on their East Village home turf coming up: Sept 25 at around 4 they’re at Tompkins Square Park, then on Oct 1 at 8 they’re at the LUNGS Festival in the Green Oasis Garden, 368 E 8th Street between Aves. C and D.

Their new album Shadowman is streaming at Bandcamp. Rosser has gone deep into dub, and improvisation, and low-key soul and funk in recent years, so this plunge into retro 80s rock is a real departure – and proves she’s just as much at home with a harder, more straight-ahead sound.

The first song on the album is Hey Emily, which has a catchy three-chord hook and a steady new wave beat from drummer Paddy Boom that gives away the band’s origins. “I found the thing that you gave me, it was in my purse with my loose change, it was still empty but I couldn’t throw it away,” Rosser explains. We never find out what it was.

The album’s title track shifts back and forth between an altered reggae beat – something Rosser is an expert at – and a straight-up new wave pulse, anchored around guitarist Nao Hakamada’s lingering, moody chords and jazzy octaves.

Surrender has spare, vintage 80s chorus-box guitar and a big, icy, oscillating chorus: it’s the band’s big stadium anthem. Rosser goes to the top of her range in Oh Father, a steady, understatedly aching soul ballad in 6/8 time with an unexpected reference to the Cure. It’s one of the band’s biggest audience hits in recent months – ok, years, considering that we were rudely interrupted in 2020.

There are two versions of the album’s final song, Saving All My Love, the first a cheery, Marley-inspired reggae tune, the second a wickedly psychedelic dub by E Blizza. No doubt the band will be airing out all these flavors and more over the next week or so.

Play For Today 9/7/21

Been awhile since there’s been a playlist on this page, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of entertaining singles floating around. Here’s a fun and informative self-guided mix: the links in the song titles will take you to each one.

The Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout are best known for their latin soul jams, but they’re a lot more eclectic than their name implies. The most electrifying song on their live album is Sheba, an Ethiopiques-tinged surf song

Louisiana rocker Rod Gator‘s Wanna Go for a Ride is the Clash’s version of Brand New Cadillac, as the Legendary Shack Shakers might have done it, darker and grittier with a guitar solo to match

Acoustic Syndicate‘s cover of the Grateful Dead classic Bertha has a tightness and a snarl that the original band sometimes let slip away. “Test me test me test me test me, why don’t you arrest me?” What a theme the lockdown era!

It makes a good segue with one you probably know, RC the Rapper‘s Just Say No, one of the big boombox hits from this summer’s protests here in the US. “It isn’t a theory if it keeps coming true.”

The smooth reggae grooves of Micah Lee’s No Lockdowns keep the inspiration flowing (thanks to the fearless folks at Texans For Vaccine Choice for this one).

The breathing metaphors and carefree sounds of children laughing on the playground in Alma’s Sips of Oxygen are a much subtler kind of commentary: “Someone in the doorway, hope they’re not afraid of them.”

Marianne Dissard and Raphael Mann’s delicate chamber pop duet reinvention of Townes Van Zandt’s If I Needed You is the great lost track from Nico’s Chelsea Girl album….with a woman who can hit the notes on the mic.

Let’s end this with something equally artful and poignant: Danny Wilkerson‘s Endless Haze, the best and least Beatlesque song on the new reissue of his very Fab Four-influenced 2018 solo debut album. The stark haggardness of the Boston Symphony Strings back his playfully lyrical but wounded chronicle of losing a battle with the bottle.

Incendiary Ethiopian Jams on the Upper West Side This Weekend

Anbessa Orchestra‘s latest single Gobez (Brave) – streaming at Bandcamp – is a condensed, slashing version of a big anthem they slayed with for over a year before the lockdown. Then the Israeli-American Ethiopian jazz jamband had to record it remotely over the web since the band members had been scattered across the world. Here, guitarist/bandleader Nadav Peled introduces the big, defiant, ominous Ethiopian modal hook, picked up by the brass and eventually a slithery solo by baritone saxophonist Eden Bareket.

This wild, incendiary outfit are back in action with a free outdoor show on Aug 1 at 7 PM at Pier One on the Hudson; take the 1/2/3 to 72nd St., walk west and take the stairs down to the river at 68th St. out behind the Trump complex. There’s plenty of room for dancing on the pier.

Their most recent album, Live at New City Brewery 11/22/19 hit their Bandcamp page about a year ago and underscores why more bands should make live albums. For a soundboard recording that the band probably never planned on releasing until the lockdown, this is pretty amazing. They are in their element through a relentlessly slinky thirteen-song set in western Massachusetts, a mix of originals and classics. Bassist Ran Livneh and drummer Eran Fink run hypnotically undulating, circular riffs as the band shift from an ominous mode to sunnier terrain on the wings of alto sax player Bill Todd’s jubilantly melismatic alto sax solo on the night’s opening number.

As they like to do, they segue straight into a searing, practically eight-minute version of their signature song Lions, organist Micha Gilad holding down turbulent river of sound behind the biting chromatics of the horns, trumpeter Billy Aukstik out in front. Peled’s supersonic hammer-ons raise the energy to redline through a tantalizingly brief solo: this band can go on twice as long and the intensity never wavers.

Assefa Abate’s Yematibela Wef ((A Bird You Can’t Eat) has a subtext as salacious as the title implies and a bouncy triplet groove. The Gize Suite, a diptych, based on Gizie Biyasayegnem by Misrak Mammo, starts out as a shivery, chromatic, trumpet-fueled clapalong shadowed by Peled’s guitar and rises to blazing, symphonic proportions. Peled brings it down to a spare, ominously jangling solo guitar interlude, then the conflagration starts again.

From there the group hit a balmy oldschool 60s soul bounce with Zemena and Abebe Mellese’s Kelkay Yelelbebet, then an original, Tch’elema (Darkness), a turbulently pulsing salute to resilience in troubled times.

Todd’s spare flute contrasts with the brooding undercurrent of Werik’i (Gold), another original. Mahmoud Ahmed’s Belomi Benna gets a cinematic, relentless drive that goes straight-up ska and then reggae, then the band go back to biting minor modes with their own stomp, Gurage

Once again, they follow a segue, from their Ethiopian reggae tune, Le’b, into Aregahegn Worash’s wickedly catchy Zelel Zelel. “Do you want more?” Peled asks the crowd. “One more set,” a guy in the crowd bellows back. To which the guitarist responds with a menacing, spiraling, reverb-drenched solo into, then the band launch into the angst-fueled Yeleleu Hager Lidj (Man Without a Country). They close with the bounding, strutting, Dera, with solos all around. This is as good an idea as any of what the Upper West is going to get this weekend.