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The Simpkin Project | Everything You Want

album review by John Powell

The Simpkin Project | Everything You Want

The bio on their website surmises it: “Unification, peace, understanding, tolerance.” These might not be new concepts to a reggae group, but The Simpkin Project, out of Huntington Beach, California, really do well on two levels: one, lyrically they are progressive and combine simplicity with accuracy. Second, they may be rootsy, but they have an Americana feel driven mainly by soaring electric guitar. It’s a nice combo. It’s a superb album.

Everything You Want opens with an instrumental, “Showtime”. The group has two keys players, Shawn Taylor and Mark Thompson, on organ. They really tie the song together, knitting a groovy set of coals for Phil Simpkin’s guitar to cook over. They’re joined by Jah Horns, an organization based out of Long Beach, CA that became a stellar horn group promoting young professional horn players. How cool? The song simmers and bubbles, a great way to kick off the album.

Next comes the title track, slow both like a blues groove and roots jam. The chorus, which is simply the title repeated, is laced with harmonies. The song warms into the verse. It could very easily be cheesy, but Phil pushes the metaphor to the point where it’s honest: “Your love is like an ocean/I want to explore your every tide/submerge myself in the comfort of your waters.” He adds, “You are the best thing to happen to me.”

“Good Times” plays off of an easy skank, with keys lightly toying with a lick. It’s a ridiculously optimistic message: “I’m overjoyed/I know there will be good times/with the vibes we create.” There’s nothing hidden here. If you need a pick me up, this is the song to turn your mood. “I see everyone’s here/there’s no more waiting.” Phil’s melodies are excellent, making the words easy to remember and the songs easy to hum. You can take this song with you for the day.

Conversely, “Harder”, even by its name, indicates a difference of opinion. Eric Riegler’s bass steps like a spy through shadows while Phil lays on poetic observations of the Times. He keeps it uplifting. “You’ll see the reason/for your very being.” The chorus, however, is, “Can’t get much harder,” The rhyming in this song is excellent. He knows where to chop a line to make it both affective and ghostly.

A key track is “Check Yourself”, the quintessential Simpkin Project song. The guitar swoops in searing. Sergio Sandoval on percussion creates a rounded putter and Sean Kennedy on drums fills in between. The instrumentation is full, overtaking the speakers. Lyrically, the song is a quick-witted runoff of incidences like, “So cool/so calm/so rough/so strong/so quick/so rude/man, you better check yourself!” It’s sassy, snarky, and a dead-on creation of things you’d like to tell some people. The bridge is a euphoric string of “Ah’s” cart wheeling over an extended groove.

“Love with everything that you’ve got,” Phil croons on “Love”, another slow groove. The vibes across the board are mainly melodic, and yes, drawing up images of beaches, sands, and parties. Between Ralph Arenas on rhythm and Phil on lead guitars, and layered keys, the band can keep up this reggae and rock guitar without it ever getting old.

The album shows up on iTunes as Roots Reggae, accurate in its musicality, its use of bass and drums, as well as a positive message and scores of positive vibes. There are no references to Babylon, here, however, no religious connections. I wouldn’t even say there’s too much spiritual exploration here. Of course it’s spiritual, a healing album, but the idea is intertwining the musical feel of roots music with the songwriting of American folk and adding in electric guitar play. It’s the good parts of a lot of music, a welcoming understanding of how to make good music.

Bottom line: Everything You Want is also everything you need.


0 # Mark Regan-Simpkin 2011-11-09 13:57
You guys are SERIOUSLY good! And who knows, we are probably related!! Thanks for all the stuff - Dobromark (simpkin) Unfortunately in the UK!!!!!!


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