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Published: 2012/09/19
by Brian Robbins

John Brown's Body
JBB In Dub

Easy Star Records

As dub as dub can be, John Brown’s Body’s JBB In Dub is luscious ear candy for those who want to hear the band’s music explored from the inside out. The key to JBB In Dub is the band’s decision to let engineer Craig “Dub Fader” Welsch shape the music as he saw fit during the final mix. Welsch (who is also a member of 10 Ft. Ganja Plant) deconstructs, reconstructs, and takes the music to places where the heart and breath are on the outside of the body at times. In the wrong hands, manipulating the music of John Brown’s Body would be a crime; here, Welsch is playing the part of both additional band member and a conductor – albeit a conductor leading the way after the fact.

A bad dub can pooch a good tune, but it’s hard to create a good dub from an original piece of music that was lacking to begin with. In the case of JBB In Dub, not only are the tunes themselves solid – the depth of the band’s natural sound gives Welsch layers and layers of pliable sonic phyllo to work with.

Right off the bat, “TKO” announces its arrival with an opening fanfare that sounds like a cross between a spaghetti western theme song and a Frank Zappa instrumental. 15 seconds in, however, there’s no doubt about it: Nate Edgar’s bass and Tommy Benedetti’s drums land on the scene and let you know just where you are – big time. As the tune evolves, Welsch samples the band’s various voices: here the keys of Jon Petronzio appear in the foreground; over here it’s Drew Sayers’ saxophone shining a light; and sometimes it just has to be a return to that wump-bumping bass ‘n’ drums. And in between are thick latherings of Mike Keenan’s guitar weaving with the keyboard and the fat punch of the JBB horns (Sayers, Scott Flynn on trombone, and Sam Dechenne on trumpet). The resulting mix is exciting and intriguing. In short, this is some fine shit to burrow into.

“Majestic Dub” is a major tease of some JBB horn tastiness; Keenan coats the first half of “Chased By Lions” with some lovely shimmering guitar; and Edgar leads the way through “The General’s Ambush” with a groove that’s oblivious to the swirling mists around it. Aspiring reggae keyboardists would do well to put an ear to “Ring Of Berlin” for a crash course in dynamics and tastefulness, courtesy of Petronzio. And the album-closing “The Grass” takes things home perfectly, allowing all hands (including vocalist Martin) (no – especially vocalist Elliot Martin) to shine one more time. Throughout it all, Benedetti’s percussion work holds down the fort, providing sure footing for his bandmates’ explorations while doling out some adventures of his own as well.

The sound of JBB In Dub manages to be both rootsy as hell and adventurous, with the message coming through loud and clear: John Brown’s Body continues to evolve as a band – conscious of where they came from, but totally open to wherever the music takes them.

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