It’s been five years since Tarrus Riley joined Jamaica’s reggae elite with the smash hit She’s Royal – a song that’s now attracted more than five million viewers on YouTube. He’s never stopped delivering hits since then, and in a range of different styles too, including roots, lovers rock, dancehall and crossover.
We meet at Mikey Bennett’s studio in Vineyard Town, over in East Kingston. That’s where Tarrus recorded the recent Mecoustic album, although he’s rehearsing in readiness for some European dates on the day of our interview. Dean Fraser, who produced many of Tarrus’ biggest hits and doubles as his bandleader, sits with several of his brethren under a shady tree in the yard. They’re playing dominoes, which Jamaicans have turned into a near blood sport…
Gospel songs, the kind of which Gregory Porter imbibed while in his mother’s church as a young boy in the ‘70s, are not just suffused with an emotional energy and uplifting sentiment. Many are also lyrical gems, sources of vivid metaphor, simile and allegory. Of all the images that evoke the redemption at the heart of the music, it is that of water – think the baptismal, healing Jordan – that carries most weight.
Given the fact that his 2010 debut CD was entitled Water and the new set is Liquid Spirit, it is reasonable to assume that Porter is drawing from the deep well of vocabulary and storytelling of the church as well as its melodies and rhythms. The memory of his elders still lingers.
“Water – it’s like my mother’s sermons coming out,” he responds when the subject is broached.
“This ‘water’ thing keeps coming up even in my love songs… ”
Still ploughing his own musical furrow after nine previous solo albums, likeable vocalist, writer, instrumentalist and producer Chris Jasper has, with his just released 10th project, Inspired, once again managed to maintain the standards that he [publicly] set as far back as 1973, when he and younger Isley progeny, Ernie and Marvin, teamed up with the established older family trio of O’Kelly, Rudolph and Ronald to form a sextet that spent an entire decade at the top of the charts.
It’s been clear ever since, at least to those who have ears, just who the major musical player behind the so-called ‘3+3’ aggregation really was: Chris’s trademark sound is stamped not only across his own solo albums, but also shone strong from the Isley-Jasper-Isley albums of the mid-eighties. In contrast, the remaining Isleys, especially the solo Ronald, have bounced from producer to producer in search of a suitable direction…
Walking Into A Burning House is a truly modern record. Made by Burning House, the new duo of Blackalicious producer Chief Xcel and French keyboard dynamo Hervé Salters, their debut outing together was made across continents, over several years, with Salters relocating from San Francisco to Berlin in the process. None of this stopped progress. If anything, the distance just seemed to force its makers to think of new ideas they could implement.
Speaking from Berlin, where he moved recently after some 10 years on America’s west coast, Salters admits Walking Into A Burning House is the type of album that could only have been made in a world of pro-tools, high-speed internet and state-of-the-art digital software.
“The great aspect of making music with your own computer is the freedom that it allows,”…