Alex Harris



A sneaky peek of just some of what is in the May 2024 issue – OUT NOW!

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Damien Cornellis, who plays keys, is the new guy in Malted Milk. Well, I say ‘new’, but these things are relative, you understand.
“Yeah, I guess more accurately you could say I’m the last musician who joined the band – but it was something like eight or nine years ago, right?” he tells me on Zoom from Paris. “And I think you know that more than 20 years ago Malted Milk was just a blues duo? It has grown a lot from there.
“Actually, they called me because the last keyboard player wanted to do some studies in Berklee in New York. It was great for me because I love this kind of music, this blues and funk mix, all the older sounds. It’s who I am.”
Indeed, Malted Milk are, after 25 years, something of an institution in their French homeland. They’ve long moved on from being a bunch of blues and soul fans looking to pay tribute to the music they love: now they live, breathe and create it with the same commitment, understanding and feel that their heroes once did.

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Alborosie, the Sicilian reggae star who’s lived in Jamaica for over 20 years and has released almost the same number of albums during that time, is a tireless ambassador for the genre he adopted way back in the early nineties, when fronting an Italian band called The Reggae National Tickets. After performing at Reggae Sumfest in 2000, he jumped ship, worked for a while as an engineer at Gee Jam studio in Port Antonio, then moved to Kingston in a bid to establish himself as an artist in his own right by singing and deejaying songs that blended Rastafari with sound system culture. A gifted multi-instrumentalist/producer, he laid the foundations for what became the so-called ‘Reggae Revival’ by reintroducing Jamaica to authentic-sounding roots music, shot through with more than a hint of modernity. Alborosie’s expertly crafted and individualistic approach soon paid dividends, and especially when allied to impressive stage performances. It’s an amalgamation of such qualities that has earned him headlining status in reggae circles, as reflected by a persistently busy touring schedule. He’s already played numerous dates in both North and South America this year and then embarks on a lengthy tour of Europe in late summer.


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We gave quite a welcome to Alex Harris’s debut single for Shanachie Records back in November last year – well, more specifically I did – comparing his performance on the gospely soul slowie Lose My Religion to Stax gems of old and Alex’s voice as reminiscent of both Al Green and Johnnie Taylor. Having grown up adoring both of those soul legends, for me it was no mean praise for a new guy who sounds like he’s been paying attention to the right kind of mentors. And naturally, hoping to establish oneself firmly in the man’s good books right at the start of our Zoom conversation for this feature, I ask Alex how it feels to be placed in such esteemed vocal company, albeit by some bloke from the other side of the world he’s never heard of.
He laughs and then says: “Honestly, it feels great. I’ve always admired Al Green, particularly. I really think that both Al Green and Johnnie Taylor were – and are, in Al’s case – amazing vocalists and performers, and certainly the way they deliver, interpret and deliver music… something that memorable really should be studied, I think, by any artist interested in pursuing a career in soul music. So, I do very much appreciate the comparison.”


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Let’s be honest now. How often do we see a reggae band insist on performing and recording with a full complement of horns, backing singers and the rest, while delivering songs that address spiritual and social issues without so much as a fleeting nod to romance? A band that’s remained faithful to their Rasta mission for over 40 years and kept the core of their original membership together for all of that time? Which continues to make music that’s not only relevant, but also acts as a standard bearer for the whole genre?
Readers, please welcome Black Roots, whose latest album is another feather in the cap of Bristol’s finest. It’s called simply Roots and the title says it all, as that’s what the majority of songs are about. The band members sing of their own roots as Rasta people and African descendants. The illustration on the cover speaks volumes too, since it depicts roots in the earth giving rise not to pretty flowers, but hot peppers!

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