It was only a couple of months ago that we ran a feature about the fifth anniversary of Chronixx’s debut album Dread & Terrible. That’s the one with some of his biggest early hits on it, and proved to the reggae world that a Jamaican artist doesn’t have to be signed either to a major or leading independent label to have a hit album. That in itself was extraordinary, but then – wonder upon wonders – Chronixx was invited to make his debut American, coast-to-coast television appearance on The Jimmy Fallon Show.
An obvious first question when we get to speak to him then: although Dread & Terrible is a fine album and of cultural significance, why reissue it after just five years?
“It was a collective idea,” he responds on the phone from Jamaica. “We always want to do that with our projects because it helps with their longevity. We’re just trying to manifest what the long-term vision is and has always been, and on the admin level I think it was a good thing to do that, because it was never a one-year or five-year mission… ”
Durand Jones & The Indications’ Morning In America not only sounds like an old Impressions tune, it has the lyrics to match. And messages are important to Durand Jones, especially in these modern, tryin’ times.
“Within soul music, a big tendency is to party,” he acknowledges, when I steer him round to the subject during our transatlantic Skype conversation. “It still comes out at barbecues, more even than hip-hop. The love song aspect, the party aspect… that always makes an appearance. But one thing we always wanted to do was not to forget about the social consciousness element.
“When I heard Donny Hathaway singing about Little Ghetto Boy and Someday We’ll All Be Free… that song brought tears to my eyes when I first heard it… ”
The title of Tarrus Riley’s latest EP, B.L.E.M., is an acronym of “blending life’s experiences musically.” It’s got nothing to do with Chris Brown’s stoner version of the same phrase, and everything to do with the drive towards self-expression shared by many current Jamaican artists.
“That’s the world we’re living in,” announces Tarrus over the phone from Florida. “Everyone is blending up everything, but in Jamaica we don’t say ‘blend’. We talk cool so we say, ‘blem’, but I like having a choice and mixing these different influences.
“I’ve always experimented with different genres, and I do a little bit of dancehall and rocksteady as well. I’m one of those people who can do more than just the one thing, so that’s what I do. My fans, they know that I’m always going to give them a different kind of vibes. I’ve never been someone who can be kept in a box but I just try and keep it entertaining… ”
Ways To Become A Soul Singer: Method One.
Having been born African-American in Tennessee – other relevant states are available – make your first performances in church [preferably where your grandfather is a highly respected preacher], then form a funk band in your teens with some of your Sunday School buddies and take the secular route to the industry from there: either have yourself discovered by some music biz big-wig or, more likely these days, build up your own thing online before the same break occurs.
Ways To Become A Soul Singer: Method 357. Also known as ‘The Penfold Plan’.
First, have white, English parents, preferably from rural Sussex/Somerset. Making sure they emigrate to even-more-rural Nova Scotia before you are born, grow up in the arse-end of nowhere singing mainly Celtic folk songs, before relocating to Brandon, Manitoba to study classical piano at university. Having discovered soul music [thanks to your sisters] along the way, junk your classical training and the family’s plan for you to become a teacher, join a local funk band [getting into James Brown and Tower of Power as you go] and, finally, have yourself discovered singing at a society wedding in Vancouver by the event planner who happens to know a guy at Nettwerk records. Couldn’t be simpler…