Reggae on the River 2009 – Reggae on the River in Humboldt County

I got to attend this year’s Reggae on the River Festival in Southern Humboldt County, California. The festival had a great local community feel and funds raised went to support the Mateel Community Center in Redway, California. The Eel River flowed through the picturesque venue located at Benbow State Recreational Area. Reggae on the River celebrated its 25th Anniversary in fine style. Positive vibrations flowed all day long. Soul Majestic played early in the day bringing their brand of soul-drenched reggae to the stage. The track “First Light” set the vibe and songs like “Rough N’ Tuff ” displayed the musical prowess of this young group. Soul Majestic also played the single “Better World,” which dovetails nicely with their positive vibe and eco-friendly message.

Queen Omega ignited the stage with soul, dancehall, and roots reggae. A native of Trinidad and Tobago Queen Omega sang “Love Ya Color,” “Judgement,” “Warning,” and “Ganja Baby” to an appreciative crowd.  The Roots Revealers bought Jamaican dancehall to northern California playing the songs “Long Road” and “No More Killing.”

The crowd-pleasing crown princess of roots reggae Etana turned it up a notch dropping the killer hits “Roots” and “Blessing.” The lovely songstress covered some Bob Marley and the Wailers tunes creating a wonderful vibe with the classic “One Drop.” Etana played some tracks from her newest hit album The Strong One performing “Jah Chariot” and “Don’t Forget,” and “Caltariba System.” And I was pleasantly surprised by Etana‘s cover of the Beatles “Don’t Let Me Down.” Etana finished her set singing “I Am Not Afraid,” which is from one of my favorite riddims: the “Rub-A-Dub” riddim.

The legendary vocal group from Jamaica The Abyssinians took the stage under the afternoon sun. Roots reggae filled the air with classic tunes like “Y Mas Gan,” “African Race,” “Let My Days Be Long,”  “Meditation,” and “Know Jah Today.” The Abyssinians took us to the Bible and the book of Daniel with “Abendigo,” turning the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendigo into a wonderful reggae and dub experience. And of course the reggae legends performed their megahits from the Satta Massagana album, including “Peculiar Number,” “Black Man’s Strain,” “Declaration Of Rights,” “Forward Unto Zion,” and “Satta Massagana.”

The Abyssinians at Reggae on the River 2009
The Abyssinians at Reggae on the River 2009
The Abyssinians Dancing at Reggae on the River 2009
The Abyssinians Dancing at Reggae on the River 2009

Tanya Stephens livened things up with a raunchy-rough riding performance that included plenty of references to “long ding dongs” with high-energy versions of “Boom Wuk” and “Good Ride.” The dancehall favorite “Yuh Nuh Ready Fi Dis Yet” set a playful vibe and then she played the killer singles “Can’t Breathe,” “It’s A Pity,” and “These Streets.” Stephens showed her soulful side too with songs like “What Ah Day” and “Little White Lie.” But it seemed Stephens dominated with the playful tunes like “Tek Him Back” and “To The Rescue.”

Tanya Stephens at Reggae on the River 2009
Tanya Stephens at Reggae on the River 2009
Tanya Stephens at Reggae on the River 2009, California
Tanya Stephens at Reggae on the River 2009, California

Then the Yellow Wall Dub Squad took the stage to warm it up for The Mighty Diamonds. The bassist sang the song “Overlaod” and then King David sang a reggae version of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.” The Mighty Diamonds entered the stage and played “Poor Marcus Garvey” and “Rise Up” from the album titled Rise Up. The roots reggae gems “Have Mercy,” “Right Time,” “Africa,” and “I Need A Roof” all made the set list. The “I Need A Roof” jam extended and transitioned into a cover of the Bob Marley‘s anthem “Get Up, Stand Up.” An extended version of “Pass The Kutchie” and a sweet version of the Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions tune “It’s All Rightt” capped off the set. Etana, The Abyssinians, Soul Majestic, Queen Omega, and The Mighty Diamonds then returned to the stage and all performed together for a finale. The all-star group of reggae performers sang the Bob Marley and the Wailers classic hit “One Love / People Get Ready.”

The Eel River at Reggae on the River 2009
The Eel River at Reggae on the River 2009
Dancin' Crowd at Reggae on the River 2009
Dancin' Crowd at Reggae on the River 2009

Reggae on the River 2009 – Reggae on the River in Humboldt County

TOP 20 ALBUMS OF JUNE 2009 – BEST OF 2009 SUMMER MUSIC

Top 20 Albums of June 2009

  1. Bob Marley and the Wailers B Is For Bob [Tuff Gong/Def Jam/Island Records 2009]
  2. Various Artists Dark Was The Night (Red Hot Compilation) [The Red Hot Organization/4AD 2009]
  3. N.A.S.A. – The Spirit Of Apollo [Anti/Epitaph 2009]
  4. AlborosieEscape From Babylon [Greensleeves 2009]
  5. Dave Matthews BandBig Whiskey And The GrooGrux King [Bama Rags 2009]
  6. The ItalsLet Dem Talk [Ital Records 2009]
  7. Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley BandOuter South [Merge 2009]
  8. DJ JS-1 No Sellout [Ground Original 2009]
  9. The Dub MachinistWorldwide Dub [Control Tower France 2009]
  10. Various Artists Reggae Gold 2009 [VP Records 2009]
  11. Ini Kamoze 5150 Rule [Hottis 2009]
  12. Amadou & MariamWelcome to Mali [Nonesuch 2009]
  13. Los Granadian del Espacio Exterior Donde Ningun Hombre Ha Llegado Jamas [Liquidator Spain 2009]
  14. Method Man & RedmanBlackout! 2 [Explicit] [Island/Def Jam 2009]
  15. Regina SpektorFar [Sire 2009]
  16. Black Eyed PeasThe E.N.D. (The Energy Never Dies) [Interscope 2009]
  17. 311Uplifter [RCA/Jive 2009]
  18. The Dirty ProjectorsBitte Orca[Domino Recording 2009]
  19. Natural BlackGuardian Angel [Zion Roots Music 2009]
  20. Sonic Youth The Eternal [Matador 2009]
  21. Paul WallFast Life [Explicit] [Asylum/WB 2009]

“Life is one big road with lots of signs,” Bob sings “So when your riding through the ruts don’t you complicate your mind.” On this album we see why Bob Marley and the Wailers ruled the world of reggae music, especially with roots reggae tracks like “Wake Up And Live – Pt. 1.”  On the new album B Is For Bob executive producer Ziggy Marley reworked some of the Bob Marley classics giving them a kid friendly edge. The album pulsates with positive vibrations. A stripped down acoustic version of “Three Little Birds” leads off the album followed by a classic acoustic version of “Redemption Song.” These two songs make for fun summer road trip  sing-a-longs. I found the version of “Satisfy My Soul” to be very sensual and in my opinion this song could be one of the best lovers’ rock tracks ever cut. A bongo almost-dancehall infused “Jamming” and new takes on “Small Axe,” “Bend Down Low” and “Stir It Up” fill out this nice addition to the Bob Marley discography. “Could You Be Loved” and “One Love / People Get Ready” also fit perfect with the kid album theme. “High Tide Or Low Tide” excellently caps off the work.

Finding their way to the top of the Jam-Tex music charts this June are a cadre of Indie-rockers and rappers. The benefit album and compilation Dark Was The Night (Red Hot Compilation) and the N.A.S.A. hip-hop project The Spirit Of Apollo. Dark Was The Night (Red Hot Compilation) includes indie rockers collaborating to make wonderful music and really this album needs to be listened to in its entirety for the best effect. The Dirty Projectors team up with David Byrne on “Knotty Pine,” while Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings provide some soulful “Inspiration Information.” The Decemberists perform “Sleepless,” while Feist and Ben Gibbard team up on “Train Song.” Iron & Wine, Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket, and Arcade Fire all appear on the album.

On N.A.S.A.’s The Spirit Of Apollo George Clinton and Chali 2na Fish rock “There’s A Party (Feat. George Clinton & Chali 2na)” and dancheall wonder Sizzla joins Lovefoxxx, and the nasty female rapper Amanda Blank on the track “A Volta (Feat. Sizzla, Amanda Blank & Lovefoxxx).” My favorite duo on any of these indie compilations appears on the N.A.S.A. album when Tom Waits and Kool Keith collaborate on “Spacious Thoughts (Feat. Tom Waits & Kool Keith)”. M.I.A., Santogold, Nick Zinner, and Spank Rock drive the electro-rap jam “Whachadoin? (Feat. Spank Rock, M.I.A., Santogold & Nick Zinner)“. The N.A.S.A. album certainly contains the most interesting lineup of artists, including David Byrne, Gift of Gab, Chuck D, DJ Z-Trip, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, KRS-One, Seu Jorge, Ras Congo, and Scarface on tracks like  “Money (Feat. David Byrne, Chuck D, Ras Congo, Seu Jorge & Z-Trip),” “The People Tree (Feat. David Byrne, Chali 2na, Gift Of Gab & Z-Trip),” “Hip Hop (Feat. KRS-One, Fatlip & Slim Kid Tre),” “Strange Enough (Feat. Karen O, Ol’ Dirty Bastard & Fatlip),” and “The Mayor (Feat. The Cool Kids, Ghostface Killah, Scarface & DJ AM).”

Alborosie, Ini Kamoze, the Itals, and Reggae Gold 2009 provide this year’s sweltering summer reggae soundtrack. On the new Dave Matthews Band album Big Whiskey And The GrooGrux King the track “Funny The Way It Is” proves the band is still putting out quality music. DJ JS-1 gathers some talented indie rappers on No Sellout, for example, Aesop Rock and C Ray Wallz rock the mics on “Karma Killerz.”

TOP 20 ALBUMS OF JUNE 2009 – BEST OF 2009 SUMMER MUSIC