JOHN BROWN'S BODY
Energy remains the key word for this veteran reggae/rock outfit, fronted by dreadlocked vocalist Elliot Martin. Although the New York-based octet has been near the forefront of contemporary, rock and R&B -infused reggae for more than a decade, the music has begun to veer into more experimental arrangements utilizing Dub rhythms, electronic grooves and a bigger world-music vision ("more Massive Attack than Marley," said the New York Daily News).
A result of this, no doubt, is that the band's most recent album, Amplify, entered the Billboard reggae chart in the top position.
It very nearly didn't turn out that way. In 2006, just six months after he was diagnosed with cancer, bassist Scott Palmer died. As a result, three members of the band departed, leaving Martin, longtime drummer Tommy Benedetti and the others to carry on as best they could with new players.
"After making three records, we were feeling the need to push ourselves musically and sonically," Benedetti told an interviewer recently. "Today we call our sound ‘future roots.' We embrace a more modern, more rounded approach to our sound. Throughout all these changes though, there is a common thread that I believe is unique to the JBB sound."
Benedetti also bemoans the fact that many people think "you have to be from Jamaica to play reggae. Some of my favorite reggae these days isn't coming from Jamaica... it's Alborosie from Italy, Midnite from St. Croix, Gentleman from Germany...
"Also, that reggae is just beach-time and fruity drink music. Some of my favorite stuff is the heavy, conscious, minor key tunes. Oddly enough, some of the dark dub stuff makes me think of Armageddon, not the beach." Listen & learn: www.johnbrownsbody.com.
With Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. At 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16 at Live Wire Music Hall, 307 W. River St. $12 advance, $15 day of show.
Paste Magazine named Bill Mallonee No. 65 on its recent list of the world's 100 greatest living songwriters.
An anomaly in contemporary music, singer/songwriter Mallonee is creative and lyrical, and he has a rock ‘n' roll heart (Bob Dylan and Neil Young are his acknowledged major influences), but he's also a devout Christian who loves nothing better than to talk about it. "I tell people that I'm a Christian and I don't make any bones about it," he says. "But usually I'd rather tell people what that isn't rather than what it is."
Mallonee spent a dozen years as frontman for the band Vigilantes of Love, a band which very nearly followed Let's Active and R.E.M. out of Athens and into the mainstream (well, whatever your version of "mainstream" might be).
In describing the Vigilantes, Mallonee once said: "I know everybody needs a name tag, but I think it's a misnomer to say it's country-alt, because to me there's nothing really country about it. The stuff I associate with country is people who really did grow up picking cotton, riding the rail or doing time. People like Johnny Cash are authentic, whereas I think the rest of us are just poseurs, and I don't mean it in a bad way, I just think we live vicariously off those experiences. I think that Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy out of Uncle Tupelo would say the same thing; they wrote their own experiences within that genre of music."
Friday night's solo acoustic concert is a benefit for Haiti disaster relief. Listen & learn: www.billmallonee.net.
At 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12 at Bull Street Baptist Church, 17 E. 31st St. $6.
THE WEIGHT, THE GODDAM RATTLESNAKE, THE FOX HUNT
A trio of country-tinged bands on a package tour ... but there's a molasses-thick streak of rock ‘n' roll in the music the self-professed "post-punk kids" of New York's The Weight and Goddam Rattlesnake put out; it's Anthemic Americana, almost as if Ryan Adams were fronting the E Street Band. The Fox Hunt, on the other hand, is from Harper's Ferry, West Va., and they do it all-acoustic, old-timey with fiddle and banjo. We have excessive quantities of these sorts of bands down here in the South; they're almost interchangeable. What's the perspective from up north? Check it and see. Listen & learn: www.theweightaremen.com, www.thegoddamrattlesnake.com, www.thefoxhunt.net.
At 10 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10 at the Jinx, 127 W. Congress St. $4.
TODAY THE MOON, TOMORROW THE SUN
Just two months after this Atlanta-based progressive pop quartet made its Savannah debut at another club, everyone's back again for a night o'free fun at the Wormhole. Lauren Gibson is the waif-like lead singer, the versatile Micah Silverman is on bass, Cregg Gibson (Mr. Lauren) plays guitar, and the drummer is Jeremy Cole. "A wonderfully eclectic brand of melodic, hypnotic pop, with elements of electronica and flourishes of spiky punk," we said in November, and we couldn't say it any better this time. Noteworthy, and recommended. Listen & learn: www.myspace.com/todaythemoontomorrowthesun.
At 10:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12 at the Wormhole Bar, 2307 Bull St. Free. With the Athens prog/experimental duo Odist.