Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Akasha-Joy Song album review

Chicago’s Akasha occupies a unique place in the city’s reggae/ska scene. Unlike older reggae outfits, the band does not play to tourists at the Wild Hare. They also have yet to find a foothold at The Cobra Lounge and other punk-friendly venues that typically book ska bands like The Crombies, Deals Gone Bad and other groups indebted to the 80’s 2-Tone scene. Instead, Akasha hosts a popular residency at Double Door, has opened for nationally touring reggae and ska bands at The Shrine, Lincoln Hall and Subterranean, and recently held a record release party at The Hideout with support from the jazz-fusion trio Spare Parts.

Akasha has not only etched out a niche in Chicago’s reggae/ska scene, but the band is unique on record, as well: the new, self-released Joy Song sounds different from anything that currently passes for either reggae or ska these days. You will not hear frat boy nods to pop punk or mainstream rap; you will not be distracted by auto tune or Latin-inflected Reggaeton. Instead, Joy Song trades in various sub-genres of real reggae music, with shades of neo-soul and a even a bit of indie rock.

The album kicks off with the sweet “Recipe for Love” and the remaining eleven cuts are all winners. Highlights include a cover of PM Dawn’s “I’d Die Without You” that features guest vocals from JC Brooks; “Warrior” is a politically charged anthem with some great toasting courtesy of Illuminati Congo; “Lil’ Black Dress” is sleek, sexy and as modern as anything passing for adventurous, Pitchfork-endorsed R&B these days; “Warm My Bones” goes back further than the dawn of either ska or reggae to take inspiration from American gospel music and doo-wop.

The musicians responsible for the terrific sounds on Joy Song are:
Cosmos Ray-Vox
Doug Bistrow-Bass,Vox
Scott Moss-Guitar,Vox
John Barbush–Drums
Shane Jonas-Keys, Trumpet,Vox

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