John Brown’s Body features singular roots-reggae sound
John Brown’s Body typically headlines its Tahoe shows, but on Sunday it opens for Galactic at the Crystal Bay Casino for what might be the area’s musical concert of the year.
An eight-piece roots-reggae band from Boston, John Brown’s Body contrasts the New Orleans’ funk of Galactic. The bands will share the bill for eight West Coast shows. New fans of both bands undoubtedly will be made.
“It’s an unusual pairing with us,” said Elliot Martin, the voice of John Brown’s Body. “It’s nice we’re trying to hit a different audience with a band I admire a lot.”
Of course, it would be hard to find a band that didn’t mesh with John Brown’s Body.
“I feel it’s almost always appropriate,” Martin said. “I think most music lovers touch on reggae and appreciate it. Who categorically says they don’t like reggae?”
John Brown’s Body played Tahoe twice in 2009, headlining for Australia’s Blue King Brown at South Shore and for New Zealand’s Black Seeds at the CBC.
Martin was responsible for bringing the Black Seeds to the United States for the first time.
“I had a real love for their music,” Martin said. “They have excellent records. I told our manager to give them a cold call. I don’t think they had ever heard of us but they agreed to open up for us on that tour and we became really good friends.”
Martin’s perspective may have changed in December when he turned 40, eating a mostly vegan diet and exercising almost every day.
“Touring for me is about the adventure,” he said. “It’s about seeing new places and meeting new musicians. After 15 years, it’s not about huge lofty goals. It’s about the family you create.”
Martin says as much in his lyrics, in which he tries to not used typical rasta rhetoric.
“I try to avoid a lot of things that have become cliches,” he said. “I try to approach reggae with the same rhythms and cadences. I try to deliver the same effect but use more personal language. I try to keep it more personal and not be too grandiose with the lyrical content.”
The band’s change from straight-up reggae coincided with with the death of bassist Scott Palmer and co-founder and singer-songwriter Kevin Kinsella and others leaving the band in 2006. Martin became the primary songwriter and co-founder Tommy Benedetti remained behind the drum set.
“I would be hard-pressed to call what we do roots-reggae anymore,” Benedetti told Lake Tahoe Action in 2009.
Martin explained his songwriting process.
“I write the songs and a lot of the music on the computer but I don’t play an instrument,” he said. “But reggae is so in my ear and in my head that I can write good bass and drum lines so that’s how I approach every song. It comes from a real foundation of pure reggae.”
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