Reggae Cowboys lasso rich fusion sound
Who: Reggae Cowboys
Where: Boot Pub
When: Monday, Feb. 25
A little reggae, a little rock steady.
"We took our new album a little outside the style of the band," says Stone Ranger, who recounted the mix of the Reggae Cowboys' new album via cell phone from a Victoria-bound ferry.
Toronto's Reggae Cowboys get Marley-ish with a little Santana at Monday's show, with clips from their yet to be titled CD, currently being mixed at Metalworks Studio in Toronto.
"Now and Forever is blues with a reggae twist, while Do the Bucking Bronco lets you do the tango," Stone Ranger says as he hums a little beat. The band also plays favourites from their albums Tell the Truth (1995) and Rock Steady Rodeo (1999).
Their third album, Wild West Indian, was released under a Paris label through Dixiefrog European distribution. A European tour follows this next album's release and an American tour.
The Reggae Cowboys are Stone Ranger on lead vocals and guitar, Click Masta Sync on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Marshall K on bass, and Hitman I on drums. Kim Dechamp, of the Cowboy Junkies, joins the band on pedal steel guitar.
Pure/Mercury Records, the U.S. label, picked up Tell the Truth one year after its debut, which resulted in radio airplay.
The U.S. remains their market, although they would like more presence at home. But the question is how to combine the two.
"Canada is quite closed in terms of format and choice on the radio, but we're very proud to be from Canada and always mention that, and we'd like to be played more here," says Stone Range.
"Someone will wander up to us at a show and say 'y'all not from Texas, you're from Canada?'" he laughs, in a mockish southern drawl.
"Touring is also easier in the States, with less distances in between places," he says.
"Our first video for White Rhythm got loads of airplay on CMT a few years ago, but then with format change (to the station's programming) there was less play. That's what is hard about getting airplay in Canada, as our format is quite diverse," notes Stone Ranger.
"However we're a very lucky band in that sense, because we get to play all the different clubs - the blues clubs, and reggae clubs. If you're a rock fan, or blues fan, we're not just based solely on the skank sound of reggae, it's more of a sound fusion," says Stone Ranger.
They have been described by music magazines as "urban conscious reggae," a phrase too constricting for Stone Ranger.
"I would say we do tell messages in our music, and songs come from everywhere. But I wouldn't say urban conscious. You don't want to hit people over the head with the message too much in a song, you know?" he adds.
The history of cowboys in the West has links to Caribbean music. Songs like Because of the Gun, and Bob Marley's Buffalo Soldier, remind listeners of the links.
The Reggae Cowboys' interest in the genre stems from looking at African-American cowboy traditions from the pioneer era, with one in three cowboys being of either Black or Hispanic descent.
Stone Ranger, a.k.a. Bird Bellony, was born in Dominica and later moved to Toronto. He often watched the old spaghetti western films. Stone Ranger formed the band in 1993, with music partner Algernon "Syncae" Rabess, also from Dominica and a.k.a. Click Masta Sync. Stone playfully muses about music making.
"In life, we all come full circle. It's very nice to see someone like Santana come full circle with his new modern music. You know what they say, once a man, twice a child," he says.