Steal This Track: DubskinBy | February 2nd, 2010 | 2 comments
You finally found it! All of your creative Googling and Pirate Bay searching has finally paid off. You found Steal This Track, where we give away fresh music every week. Whether you just want to hear something new, to educate yourself on the music that’s being made in your backyard, or to simply enjoy the adrenaline rush you get from stealing, you’ve come to the right place.
Each Tuesday, we pick a single track from the Denver area’s best and brightest musicians and — thanks to the generous cooperation of those artists — offer it up to our readers, absolutely free. This week, we bring you the dub-drenched reggae of Dubskin, from Fort Collins.
While many pop music lovers (and critics) look down on music they don’t think is completely original, the argument is completely irrelevant when talking about the kind of music Dubskin makes. Creating Jamaican dub reggae requires a musicologist’s attention to detail and authenticity. Using well-established riddims — the groove, hook or rhythm elements of existing songs — dub practitioners take great pains to ensure that the resulting music properly evokes its ancestors — Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly & Robbie, King Tubby and others — while they build on the lyrical themes those progenitors explored.
Dubskin just might be Colorado’s most noteworthy craftsmen in this esoteric-yet-accessible genre, adding surprisingly memorable melodies, hard-edged guitar work and just a hint of pop sensibility to the dub reggae palette.
Vocalist Jamal Skinner, drummer Cory Eberhard, guitarist Phil Salvaggio, bassist Dean Curtis and keyboardist Jason Wieseler joined forces in Fort Collins in 2006, releasing their debut album soon after. “Love in Spite of…” was produced by Fort Collins-based electronic musician Derek Smith, whose work is best known under the moniker Pretty Lights — an electronic act blowing up all over the country lately. Salvaggio works as Pretty Lights’ production manager, while Eberhard accompanies Smith on drums in live settings, so existing friendships made for a good working relationship.
For its sophomore outing, however, Dubskin strayed further from its comfort zone, bringing on producer Jason “Jocko” Randall, best known for his work with metal and hardcore bands. Randall, however, also produced the most recent album from East Coast roots reggae outfit John Brown’s Body, so he wasn’t totally new to the genre. The new album was unveiled via Dubskin’s website late last year, where it was (and is) available for free download, along with the band’s debut. “No End in Time” continues the group’s zealous dedication to playing authentic roots and dub reggae, as well as its explorations of political and spiritual lyrical themes.
This week’s track, “Conquer Rome,” uses biblical references and Rastafarian imagery to convey the message that “the little guy” can overcome adversity with the help of an everlasting Jah. It opens with reverb-drenched drums, timbale, rubbery bass and upbeat guitar, creating a smoky groove. This silky cake is iced by Skinner’s soulful vocals, which evoke the leaders of the genre without sounding like imitation.
Though his words are hopeful, the song’s minor key suggests that the road to triumph is steeply uphill. After more than four minutes of verbal affirmation and easy skankin’ have lulled you into thinking that nothing new will happen, Salvaggio takes a bluesy, soaring solo that could have been lifted from a ’70s Clapton record or an ’80s power ballad. Its unexpected appearance and surprisingly melodic structure are further reminders that Dubskin isn’t content with simply aping past masters. Within the strictures of a firmly codified genre like dub reggae, there’s still room for creativity and originality.
Dubskin | Conquer Rome (right-click to save to your computer)
If you like what you hear, be sure to catch Dubskin live. The band will be playing the Boulder Theater on Feb. 3, Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom on the 4th and a Haiti benefit show at Hodi’s Halfnote on the 25th. To bone up on other songs, visit Dubskin’s website and download both “Love in Spite of…” and “No End in Time” for free.
If you’re a band or musician ready to unleash some fresh sounds on the readers of Reverb, email your tracks to Eryc Eyl for consideration.
Please note that downloads offered via Steal This Track are intended to whet your appetite, and are NOT CD-quality recordings. If you want those, please support the artists by buying their music and/or seeing them live.
Eryc Eyl is a veteran music journalist, critic and Colorado native who has been neck-deep in local music for many years. Check out Steal This Track every Tuesday for local music you can HEAR, and the Mile High Makeout every Friday.