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John Brown’s Body – “Old John Brown”
Kings and Queens
John Brown’s Body has been a revelation on the American reggae scene since they originally formed in Ithaca, NY in the mid-90s. After some personnel changes and a bunch of albums, the band sounds fresher than ever. By mixing the best of British reggae (Aswad, Steel Pulse), roots classics (Burning Spear, Alpha Bondy) and dub experimentation (Scientist, King Tubby, Sly & Robbie) together, John Brown’s Body has crafted a sound that borrows from the past while pushing towards the future. Their “future roots” style is powerful and engaging which is evident from the first cut on Kings and Queens, their new release on Easy Star Records.
The band has grown exponentially since their first album, All Time, dropped in 1996. Now based in the Boston/Ithaca/Brooklyn region, the octet built a reputation with original albums and extensive touring. Having performed at notable festivals like Bear Creek, Gathering of the Vibes, Jam Cruise and Wakarusa, John Brown’s Body has been playing their unique style of reggae across the globe for years. They are a natural fit in any setting, since their music is uplifting and extremely danceable. When JBB cook up an infectious groove, audiences lock into the tight rhythm section, scorching horns and terrific melodies.
Kings and Queens reveals a rocking edge that has emerged since Elliot Martin took over the main songwriting responsibility for the group. Think Burning Spear with Funkadelic tendencies. John Brown’s Body proves that positive reggae doesn’t have to be bright and shiny, it can still maintain a grit that gives their sound a lot of soul. And while their message may be positive, it doesn’t mean the band strays from telling it like it is. Songs like “Plantation,” “Empty Hands,” and “The Battle” focus on the reality of suffering, all the while offering messages of hope. With dynamic production aided by Matt Saccuccimorano’s engineering, the band sounds robust and ready for anything. With a diverse and dedicated lineup, John Brown’s Body will surely continue to deliver their exciting brand of reggae for years to come.