The Boston Phoenix
April 27 - May 4, 2000

[Music Reviews]

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*** John Brown's Body



Finding contemporary reggae releases that satisfy roots-reggae fans is a tricky business. Many classic '70s acts followed the digital revolution down the road to cheesy keyboards and tinny drum pads; and few stateside revival acts have the vocal delivery to pull off the all-important Rasta couplets. Armed with analog keyboards, a tight horn section, and the powerful pipes of lead singer Kevin Kinsella, the Boston-based septet John Brown's Body sidestep both of those musical traps on their second Shanachie release. Although they travel a well-worn path, the band avoid being a mere tribute act by recording strictly original material. And their production technique, which is decisively digital, embraces a crystalline dub aesthetic that filters their vocal harmonies, funky clavinet vamps, and uptempo skanks through a shimmering and ever-shifting dub lens. The lyrics are fairly typical righteous Rasta-isms, but the band's absolute mastery of the deceptively simple reggae groove is far from that.

(John Brown's Body play downstairs at the Middle East this Saturday, April 29. Call 864-EAST.)

-- Michael Endelman
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