Posted by: jdantos | February 21, 2013

Track of the Night: Old John Brown, by John Brown’s Body

JBB Kings and Queens cover

John Brown’s Body, new album. Download a free MP3 at left.

Earlier today, the group that is quickly becoming my favorite reggae band released a preview of their next album Kings & Queens, and it is a really excellent tune. I’ll link to a 50-second preview YouTube version here – but do yourself a favor and head to their Facebook page an hit “Preview” to download an MP3 file yourself.

I’ve always enjoyed John Brown’s Body’s studio work – I think it brings a lot of clarity and precision to their very complex and intricate melodies, vocal harmonies, and horn instrumentations that can sometimes get lost in live recordings – for tunes like Zion Triad, The Gold (Runnin’ Remix), and their collaborations like The Cyclops.  The one negative to their studio stuff has often been energy – energy that I’ve witnessed emerge with infectious ferocity in their live materials.

Enter “Old John Brown” – a track that begins with the bare-bones drum beat, and hangs off of it an incredibly melodic and energetic bass line from 10 seconds into the track.  When the horn section melodies enter after 15 seconds, the energy is palpable – and the stage is set to blend the best of studio intricacy with the free-flowing vigor of live music.

The song is not too light to be dismissed as typical reggae fluff; nor too heavy to be overly dubby or dubstep (or any of its heavy incarnations). Lead-singer Elliot Martin’s voice is pure, controlled, and steady throughout. Guitar, rhythm and horns are snappy and clean. Vocal harmonies have a produced varnish, but they’re right-on. The bass line and the horns are really the stars of the show, particularly the bass.  It becomes its own countermelody to the horns and the rhythm guitar, and often changes places with the horns and takes the lead melody – reminiscent of Widespread Panic tunes like Radio Child. The song structure is complex as usual, with at least a couple chorus variations and bridges. I like how the chord progressions in the chorus resolve in a couple different ways.

It’s also interesting that the lyrics directly address the band’s namesake and history.  Not sure what this means, but it’s the first I’ve heard of it.

This is really a fantastic tune, and a harbinger of good things to come on their next album. I’m looking forward to April.


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