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John Brown's Body | JBB In Dub

album review by John Powell

John Brown's Body | JBB In Dub

Four years after Amplify reestablished John Brown’s Body as one of the leading contemporary reggae acts, JBB In Dub comes just in time for depraved fans. Any follower of the group will know that their first era ended when one of the founding members, Kevin Kinsella, left, along with much of the other band, including C Money, Nate Richardson, and others that went on to other musical endeavors. This new era is tougher, edgier, and dubbed “Future Roots”.

No term more aptly describes a band than “Future Roots” does the northeast’s John Brown’s Body, so there’s nothing ballsier for the progressive band to do than release an old school dub record. These seven songs are just what the doctor ordered. Any reggae fan would love the outcome of this record.

Amplfiy was released not long into the new roster’s career, and while a delicious record, lead singer and songwriter Elliot Martin seemed pushed to develop enough songs for a release. (Please note, Amplify remains one of my favorite records of all time).

With JBB In Dub the group proves that years of hard touring has tightened them into a sheer reggae force. These songs are rich with bass n’ drums, like the high hat heavy “The General’s Ambush”, a sweeter and more upbeat tune than much of the band’s catalog. Its breakdowns showcase rhythm keys, and focuses mostly on the mixing, allowing instruments to enter and exit to make levels.

“TKO” exemplifies the group’s sound. Nate Edgar’s bass sounds rounded like a spell. Tommy Benedetti’s drums whisper and echo. Both JP’s keys and Mike Keenan’s guitar work fills in the gaps, whether it’s affects twirling and whirling, or roots back grooves. In fact, Mike's guitar is worth paying particular attention to on these tracks. He develops much of the undercurrents of the songs that give them coherence. Drew Sayers, Sam Dechenne, and Scott Flynn make up the horn section, which once again, has grown impressively tight.

The album is a bit more produced sounding than their live shows. Purists may look down at any hand percussion or overdubbing that doesn’t exist on the stage. “Ring of Berlin” is a great example of this. Heavy on the studio sound, it dances in a world of whirs and wows, but is reined in by the repeated horn line and organ. The band has taken the studio as an opportunity to explore, and especially on a dub record, that’s more than allowed.

“The Grass” has been played live for a while now, and is the only song on the album with lyrics. If anything on Amplify ever sounded risky, Elliot Martin’s songwriting has grown mature and thoughtful. He owns this sound. “The Grass” on record is a much slower tempo than it’s played live usually, and as remarks on the grassroots music movement, it’s befitting a band releasing an album that simply doesn’t fit into any mainstream market.

Craig Welsch, who has worked with JBB in the past, as well as State Radio and 10 ft. Ganja Plant, is the dub master behind these tracks. While all the songs are originals, so not in standard dub fashion of remixing old tracks, the dub factor can’t go understated. The mixing is impeccable, and the bass n’ drums sound wonderful.

JBB In Dub may not be the full-length album with Elliot’s extraordinary singing style that fans have been waiting four years for, but it is a great record. The song arrangements are wonderful. The dubs are rich. For fans, this feels like a bonus, and for newcomers, this is as good a place to start as any.

Bottom line: JBB knows the roots of reggae. That’s why they can take it to the future.

Comments  

 
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