In 2006, John Brown’s Body found itself at a crossroads, when the death of bassist Scott Palmer broke the band’s heart. After the tragedy, several longtime members left the group. But, a strange thing happened to the band staring at its own mortality: somehow, JBB emerged transformed and inspired
A vital, creative energy sprang from the band’s new dynamic and new members. JBB found itself pushing more at the edges of reggae. New songs incorporated slinkier bass lines, denser instrumentation, less predictable rhythms. Beats became funkier, more drum-and-bass inflected.
JBB realized it was at a turning point: keep playing the same style of music, or follow the new sound and see where it leads. It was the same way the band members felt about reggae: how do you break rules and create something unique while still honoring the music that came before?
The answer is that it’s possible (and ultimately necessary) to push forward. “Future Roots,” which the band began using to describe its sound as far back as its 2005 Pressure Points release, took another step forward. The current evolution builds on a reggae foundation, incorporating elements from different genres. The new songs are timeless and futuristic all at once, anchored and exploring simultaneously.
These explorations are instantly evident on Amplify, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Reggae Chart in October 2008, and its remix follow-up EP, Re-Amplify, released in March 2009 also debuting on the Billboard’s Reggae Top 10 Chart.
“Amplify is the sound of a band recreated, retooled and refreshed,” writes Canada’s Exclaim Magazine, and other reviewers agree: “Amplify has a forward thinking, fearless approach to tempos, beats and feel that expands the genre of reggae as a whole.” [Amazon]
While Amplify showed the world the fearless new directions JBB’s music is headed in, Re-Amplify took it even further by putting the band’s songs into the hands of outside remixers for the first time. Working with Gym Class Heroes’ Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo, Juno-Award-nominated producer Dubmatix, dance floor pioneer Tommie Sunshine, Australia’s urban roots powerhouse Blue King Brown and others, the band’s songs were stretched every which way, resulting in an EP that pleased fans and opened the band up to even further possibilities in their musical approach. How open? The band liked Dubmatix’s remix of “The Gold” so much, they switched to playing that version in their live sets.
JBB’s live show has the kind of organic, body-rocking sound that’s only possible with an 8-piece band where air tight drum and bass, a three piece horn section, and “the most gorgeous melodies in all of modern reggae music” [All Music Guide] meet a dubbed-out sound engineer.
This fall, John Brown’s Body released their 9th studio album, “JBB in DUB”, focuses on the dubs that reflect both their foundations in classic reggae drum and bass-style music and their usual progressive approaches to the genre. JBB In Dub features six dubs, plus “The Grass,” featuring vocals from front man Elliot Martin. The songs were mixed in Boston by former JBB engineer and current 10 Ft. Ganja Plant member Craig “Dub Fader” Welsch (State Radio, The Aggrolites) at his studio.
Band Website: www.johnbrownsbody.com
Two years in the making, Remember is the full-length debut from New England’s Indie/West-African Psychadelic Funk darlings, Barika. A mesmerizing blend of highly danceable polyrhythmic grooves mixed with ethereal dub-scape, Barika (pronounced body-kah) is the brain-child of Kamel N’goni player and Percussionist Craig Myers. The Kamel N’goni, a traditional West African harp from the Wassoulou region of Mali is the driving force on the album, peppered by deep horn, keyboard and bass grooves with uncompromising, sharp hitting drums.
From Burlington, Vermont, the seven-piece ensemble features Caleb Bronze (Drums), Rob Morse (Bass), Andric Severence (Keyboards), Craig Myers (Kamel N’goni, Percussion) and a powerhouse of horns with Dave Purcell (Trumpet), Gordon Clark (Trombone) and Deva Racusin (Tenor Sax).
Think high-energy, according to Thread Magazine, in the likes of the powerfully rooted Afro-Beat music of such artists as Fela Kuti or King Sunny Ade, with the modern edge and pop of the more recent Rubblebucket and Toubab Krewe.
Performer Magazine called Barika “wholly rhythmic, captivating audiences with the beautiful, hypnotic way in which they interweave melody and groove to create something that is not only danceable, but incredibly interesting to listen to. Barika creates a soundscape of funk soaked in psychedelic, West African resonance. The outfit stands out because they are multidimensional”
Band leader Craig Myers has studied traditional West African music for the past 13 years, traveling through Mali, the Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Guinea and has toured extensively over the past several years with both Rubblebucket and Mike Gordon.
Band Website: www.barikamusic.com