John Brown’s Body of work on display at MontBleu |

John Brown’s Body of work on display at MontBleu

Tim Parsons / Lake Tahoe Action
Shaun GoodwinJohn Brown's Body is Mike Keenan, left, Matthew Goodwin, Nate Edgar, Tommy Benedetti, Elliot Martin, Scott Flynn, Alex Toth and Annakalmia Traver.

John Brown’s Body is a lot different than it was in the 1990s.

“I would be hard-pressed to call what we do roots reggae anymore,” said drummer Tony Benedetti, one of the two original members remaining in the eight-piece band.

A change in sound began with “Pressure Points” in 2005. Tragedy created a change in personnel a year later: Bass player Scott Palmer was diagnosed with cancer and died in just six months. Band co-founder and singer-songwriter Kevin Kinsella and others left.

“That was a traumatic bunch of months and something that was a challenging situation,” Benedetti said. “But Scott’s passing turned out to be a point for us to stop and (reflect). And also me and Elliot (Martin) wanted to see the band progress. We were heading in a different musical direction more geared toward his compositions. It was time for people that were sitting on the fence to move on or move forward.”

Martin, indeed, had taken over the band’s creative reins, writing eight or nine of the songs on “Pressure Points.” According to the band’s Web site, Martin and Benedetti had their creative differences since they were childhood friends.

“Kevin’s songs tended towards religious themes and roots reggae sounds, more in line with the group’s beginnings,” the Web site reported. “Elliot’s writing emphasized futuristic and atypical rhythms, as well as dense metaphorical imagery.”

Benedetti described the new sound:

“To me the music we’re playing these days has a cutting-edge kind of vibe to it.,” he said. “It’s a little more difficult to put your finger on exactly what it is. I think we’ve integrated a lot more of (reggae’s) sonic influences and beats and different lyrical textures. I think it’s a really fresh sound that were coming onto right now.”

Right around the time of Palmer’s illness, Martin developed some serious throat problems. He finally had surgery in January 2008. The release of “Amplify” nine months later proved that Martin had regained his pipes.

“I think he feels and sounds a lot better, and thank goodness for that,” Benedetti said. “It surely could have been catastrophic. He’s got a lot of noise to project over. We’re a pretty loud band. It’s a big sound that he’s got to get over. But he’s got more than enough ability to make it happen. He always has.”

“Amplify” was an instant success, hitting No. 1 on Billboard’s reggae charts upon its release. Artists throughout the world were so taken with it, that remix of the album followed last week. It includes Australia’s Blue King Brown, U.K. producers Goldielocks and Wrongtom, and Canada’s Dubmatix.

“It’s really got this cool international vibe,” Benedetti said. “It’s a lot of different sounds that we haven’t touched on before. I think its pretty slammin’. It’s good to give fans a new twist on the music, and hopefully bring some new people to the music.”

Blue King Brown, of course, will open for John Brown’s Body on Wednesday, April 1, at MontBleu Casino Resort and Spa. Benedetti’s conversation with Lake Tahoe Action took place just before the two bands’ first show together last week at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, Colo.

Will the two bands jam together?

“Oh my goodness: That sounds horrifying, but stranger things have happened,” he said. “I just realized, wow, they have more people than we do. We are definitely open to having people up if the vibe is right, and I have no reason to think the vibe ain’t gonna be right. Maybe by the time we get up to Tahoe we’ll be doing some crazy stuff.”

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