Here comes a new single release from Kalbata and Mixmonster’s ‘Congo Beat the Drum’ album (see 2nd March 2014 for review of the full album). ‘Inna Skateland’ is a slow-burning dancehall-inclined track, featuring vocals from Puddy Roots and a particularly strong bass line, displaying the vintage sound of analogue-era reggae music at its best. With old tape machines and analogue mixing it’s an unusually authentic sound, generating a convincing roots/dancehall/reggae feel. The flip is a previously unreleased dub version of the vocal ‘Skateland’ track, an excellent old-school dub with driving bass and drum/echo; a B-side that more than justifies selection of this track for single release.

Kalbata and Mixmonster: Inna Skateland/Dub; released 23rd February 2015 by Freestyle Records; 7-inch/digital

The third full-length album from American reggae outfit New Kingston is due for release on 23rd February. Entitled ‘Kingston City’, it follows the release of 2013’s ‘Kingston University’, and promises once more to mix vocal harmonies, powerful bass and roots/dancehall in a contemporary style. Alongside the New Kingston line-up of brothers Stephen Suckarie, Courtney Panton, Jr. and Tahir Panton, the album is enhanced by the inclusion of their father Courtney Panton Snr on bass, Tribal Seeds’ vocalists Maad T-Ray and E.N Young, Hawaiian singer-songwriter Kimie Miner, the formidable Wailing Souls, Sister Carol and the late legendary Sugar Minott. The lead single ‘Today’, featured here, is a great roots reggae tune in a modern styling and demonstrates the range and power of the band in full flight.

New Kingston ‘Kingston City’; released 23rd February 2015 on Easy Star Records

Competing ideological forces in Mali can make it a difficult and dangerous place to follow a musical path. For this reason the members of Songhoy Blues redeployed south from Timbuktu to the capital city, Bamako, in order to continue their work. “We had no idea that one day we could be forbidden from playing music, because music is universal,” says Aliou Toure, the group’s lead singer. They soon came to the attention of Damon Albarn, no stranger to Mali music and ‘world music’ more generally, and the desert band’s world suddenly became bigger, playing at several European festivals and also featuring on the excellent Maison des Jeunes, an album that Albarn and Africa Express recorded in Bamako. The lead single from that album – Soubour – features the Songhoy Blues along with Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and shows just what the band can do.

A welcome UK tour by Songhoy Blues starts January 24th 2015 in Glasgow, and (at the time of writing) these are the scheduled dates:

Songhoy Blues Tour

The New Town Kings – who hail from New Town, Colchester – have just re-released their well-received four-track EP, ‘Pull Up & Rewind’. This is Essex reggae/ska influenced in part by the sound of the Two Tone era but also with the strong imprint of the reggae greats, the originators of all this.

The EP opens with ‘Change’, a committed political tour-de-force, with bass and brass driving things along convincingly. ‘Luna Rosa’ is a great fast-paced ska song, with hints of a Latin influence in the brass-led refrain. ‘Grabbed My Hand’ is closer to the mellow melodic tradition of the reggae masters and the soul singers of the same period. The set concludes with ‘Cool the Pressure Down’, pointing to the need for a steady calm in circumstances where others are losing their patience. Together, the four tracks serve to showcase the different but complementary styles of this nine-piece band. The themes and lyrics of the songs here – political and personal – as well as the music itself reference the reggae tradition respectfully but the result isn’t sombre or serious. It’s upbeat live-oriented reggae/ska for a new audience.

New Town Kings: Pull Up and Rewind; release 8th December 2014. 

All the way from sunny Brighton here comes King Porter Stomp with a new single, ‘Warning’. With production in the safe hands of the formidable Prince Fatty this promises to be a track well worth hearing and, happily, it is: a slow-paced brass and bass-heavy political reggae song, resolving into a fine dubbed-up section with guitar and brass fading in and out over the firm bass and drum rhythm. With a version produced by the well-respected Nick Manasseh on the flip side of this 10” vinyl release, it is a great reggae single firmly in the mainstream roots/UK dub tradition. Eight-piece King Porter Stomp, named after a classic Jelly Roll Morton song from almost a century ago (now, that would be an interesting tune to hear ska-style!), have been around for a while now – see earlier review on 15th September 2012. They rightly continue to attract attention for their style which manages to sound technically accomplished and effortless at the same time: a fine achievement indeed.

King Porter Stomp ‘Warning’, release 24th November 2014 on Feet Up Records, limited edition 10” vinyl and digital download.