John Brown's Body (band)
|John Brown's Body|
|Origin||Ithaca, New York and Boston, Massachusetts, (U.S.)|
|Genres||Reggae, dub, indie|
|Labels||Easy Star Records, I-Town Records, Shanachie Records|
|Associated acts||10 Foot Ganja Plant, Mang Dub, Guvna Dub, Midnite|
|Past members||Kevin Kinsella
Nate Silas Richardson
Scott Palmer (deceased)
Jason "Jocko" Randall
John Brown's Body is a reggae band from Boston, MA and Ithaca, NY that tours the world performing what the group calls “Future Roots Music”. The sound is rooted in reggae rhythms and blended with a variety of other styles including dub, electronic, funk, ska, hip-hop, and dubstep.
John Brown’s Body has performed with a variety of groups, representing a wide range of genres including well-known acts such as: Dave Matthews Band, The Flaming Lips, STS9, Furthur, Ozomatli, Broken Social Scene, and Jurassic 5.
JBB signed with the reggae label, Shanachie, and released three albums -- Among Them (1998), This Day (2000), and Spirits All Around Us (2003). The Boston Herald called them "one of the world's best roots-style reggae bands" after the release of This Day. The positive reviews led to an appearance at the Bob Marley Day Festival in Miami, FL., alongside Lauryn Hill and others. After their release of Spirits All Around Us, the band had cemented themselves as a force on the national scene. With appearances at Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, Reggae on the Rocks, and Wakarusa, they earned a reputation for high energy, air-tight live shows.(citation needed)
After The Release Of This Day Mike Keenan left John Brown's Body to take care of his first child, Oscar and in 2004 his second child, Damon, he returned in 2006 he also was not an "Official" Member until 2006
JBB signed with the hip New York City record label Easy Star and released their fifth studio album Pressure Points. This record marked a crucial point in the sonic development of JBB, evolving completely from a more traditional roots approach, to a cutting edge twist on reggae and dub they called "future roots". Pressure Points was critically acclaimed and the Village Voice review called JBB "reverent as well as revolutionary" while Popmatters described the record as “their strongest, most consistent effort to date.”
While Elliot Martin had only contributed a few songs to the previous albums, the balance had shifted on Pressure Points Martin wrote 8 of the 11 songs on that album while Kevin Kinsella wrote 3.
Tragedy and change struck the band with the death of bassist Scott Palmer from cancer. Lead vocalist Martin and drummer/co-founder Tommy Benedetti decided to soldier on with a new energy and more focused musical attack.
Shortly after Palmer’s death, John Brown's Body underwent some dramatic line-up changes with the departure of Kinsella (Vocals and Rhythm Guitar) who formally left the band on good terms, along with organist/guitarist Nate “Silas” Richardson who stepped out to spend more time with his newborn son. JBB turned to its past to replace him: they tapped guitarist Mike Keenan, who had been a member of the Tribulations, the pre-cursor to JBB in the early ‘90s, that featured Kinsella, Martin and drummer Tommy Benedetti. JBB continued to tour and played to extremely enthusiastic audiences over the course of the month. By the end of the journey, they had also lost their horn section Dan Delacruz and Chris "C-Money" Welter who joined punk-reggae band Slightly Stoopid.
According to the official web site: Tommy, the only other original member left at this time, says “when Scotty passed away [on June 7, 2006], that was a breaking point for people who may have been considering leaving. With something as heartbreaking as that, there was an obvious bookend in this band’s career, so it made sense for some folks to take the opportunity to leave (according to a 2008 interview).
ple was evin Kinsella. Kinsella had been talking about leaving the band few006 times before that, but never took the ep. “With Scott’s death, I think he wanted to close the chapter on this band he had started and tie it all up neatly,” Martin says. “He wanted JBB as an entity to cease. The only problem was that Tommy and I were really enjoying playing with the new guys and still felt like there was a lot we wanted to accomplish.” Even though things seemed to be falling apart around them, Martin and Benedetti both felt a powerful new energy playing with Richardson, Keenan and freshly recruited organist Matthew “Kofi” Goodwin. a lot we wanted to accomplish.” Even though things seemed to be falling apart around them, Martin and Benedetti both felt a powerful new energy playing with Richardson, Keenan and freshly recruited organist Matthew “Kofi” Goodwin.
Kinsella’s departure freed Martin to lead the band in new musical directions. For years, there had been a creative rift between the two primary songwriters and childhood friends. Kinsella’s songs tended towards religious themes and roots reggae sounds, more in line with the group’s beginnings. Martin’s writing emphasized futuristic and atypical rhythms, as well as dense metaphorical imagery. “I used to think that having two songwriters and vocalists was a strength that made us unique, but it probably confused a lot of people. Now our sound is more cohesive,” says Benedetti “We feel comfortable with one another and you can hear it in the music we’re creating.”
During the tense last months with Kinsella, Martin decided to make an attempt to bridge the gap between him and his old friend, writing three rootsier tracks (“Give Yourself Over,” “Speak Of The Devil,” and “Be At Peace”). When Kinsella quit, Martin found himself with three anchors for the next album, and for the first time, much less pressure to make everything fit within a perceived JBB sound. Feeling unrestrained, Martin next wrote “The Gold,” a more up-tempo drum & bass-inflected tune featuring a guitar line reminiscent of an Ennio Morricone spaghetti western soundtrack, and “Make Your Move,” which takes the group closer towards hip hop. The title track was actually one of the oldest musical ideas to come to fruition on the record. Martin says, “The seeds for that one are five years old. It was originally a hip hop beat, like a Funkadelic song. The bass line was the same, but much more slinky. I didn’t know what it would become, but I knew it should be the lead for this record.”
The band went iton the studio to work on their sixth record at More Sound a recording studio owned by their live sound engineer Jason “Jocko” Randall in Syracuse, NY.
During that time Elliot began to notice problems with his vocal strength and endurance; after months of doctor’s visits and vocal training, the problem was finally revealed to be vocal polyps, which threatened the band’s ability to soldier on once more.
Martin had surgery in early 2008 to remove polyps on his vocal cords and he also began voice training to teach him to put less strain on his throat. According to the band's official website: “I feel better every day. Each show back after surgery, I could feel myself getting stronger. Now I think I’m doing things I couldn’t even do before,” Elliot says. “Add that to the energy of the new line-up and this new batch of songs."
The band released Amplify on New York City label Easy Star Records. Amplify debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Reggae charts. #10 on CMJ's World Music Chart, and made the “iTunes best of 2008″ list for reggae records.
JBB toured across the entire USA for the first time in nearly 2 years.
All Music Guide writes: “Elliot Martin has taken firmer control of the group, and it is now a completely different organism: although the John Brown's Body sound is still distinctly reggae-ish, it's denser, swirlier, sometimes downright funky, and loaded with more powerful melodic hooks.”
It was revealed years later on Oscar Keenan's YouTube channel that iTunes hit Give Yourself Over could have been promoted as JBB's first Single but the money was spent on Plane Tickets to Australi 
JBB released their first remix EP Re-Amplify (Easy Star) hit the stores, also debuting in the Billboard Reggae top 10. Re-Amplify featured remixes by artists from around the world including Dubmatix (Toronto), WrongTom (London) and their friend Disashi Lumumba Kasongo from Gym Class Heroes (US).
After a few different incarnations, the horn section was settled, featuring trombonist Scott Flynn, Drew Sayers on saxophone and Sam Dechenne on trumpet.
2009 brought the band to the United Kingdom for 16 shows with label mates Easy Star All-Stars, and 11 shows in New Zealand with The Black Seeds, also Easy Star labelmates. The tour leads to a musical brotherhood with The Black Seeds and they performed together at the 2010 Grassroots Music Festival in Ithaca, NY.
In December 2009 JBB covered “Bankrobber” by The Clash for a charity record named “Shatter The Hotel: The Songs of Joe Strummer in Dub”. All proceeds from the record went to benefit Strummerville,: The Joe Strummer Foundation for new music. As Of August 2013 it is the most popular song on Shatter The Hotel
On April 16, 2013, JBB released the first studio album in several years, titled Kings and Queens. Neil Kelly of PopMatters wrote of the album, "Where they have stayed true to their roots on previous releases, JBB incorporates many electronic embellishments and elements on Kings and Queens, giving the album as a whole a modern, American touch." The studio album featured 12 new tracks, and was released in the following formats: iTunes download, CD, and 180 gram vinyl LP. The vinyl release was the first JBB on vinyl that was readily available for fan consumption.
- "JBB is an eight-piece outfit that delivers some of the most forward-thinking reggae music in the world today." - LA2DAY
- "…the most gorgeous melodies in all of modern reggae music…" - All Music Guide
- “The most authentic purveyors of Truth and Rights' music around.” -Village Voice
- “Some folks say they've seen the future of reggae and its name is John Brown's Body.”-Tallahassee Democrat
- “A seriously impressive live prospect.”-Total Music Magazine UK
- “More Massive Attack than Marley,” -New York Daily News
- “John Brown’s Body throws down reggae unlike any other act on the live circuit”-Glide
- “Instead of relying on traditional foundations to create their songs, Martin takes the band’s old world foundation and builds a complex and multi-genre crossbreed that places the band squarely on the forefront of the world music arena.” - Sentimentalist Magazine
- “Rooted in island vibrations but incorporating elements of funk, hip-hop, dubstep, dancehall and probably a slew of other influences we’re overlooking, JBB stands at the forefront of progressive reggae — a genre so cutting edge, it doesn’t actually exist yet.” -Seven Days
- “Fans recognize the real deal. Initially inspired by ’70s roots reggae, the octet has given the tag ‘future roots’ to its now-denser, still-ebullient, modernized reggae, which draws on hip-hop as well as electro-dub.” -The Improper Bostonian
- “JBB’s foundations may rest on Marley, Tosh and other Jamaican pioneers, but the band’s influences range much wider, across...the near-countless subgenres lumped under ‘electronic music’.” -Glide Music
- “Starting with bands like John Brown's Body, and then even with an act like Matisyahu, whole new (non-traditional) audiences are being opened up to the Reggae-Rock sound who never would have listened before.” - Singers & Players Global eMag
Musical style and influences
Artists that Elliot Martin listened to extensively—and was influenced by—while writing Amplify include Sigur Rós, Batch, Toumani Diabate, Sly and Robbie, Radiohead, Talib Kweli, Aswad, Funkadelic, King Tubby, Roots Manuva, Masaru Sato and Midnite (whose lead singer, Vaughn Benjamin, lends a vocal to the end of “Speak Of The Devil”). Certainly not the typical play list for a reggae band, but the band’s deep reggae roots are not hard to find amongst all of the other influences.
“I think that the strongest reggae was coming out of the UK in the 70's and early 80's,” Elliot explains. “It was the best produced, had the most complex songwriting; it’s the most progressive reggae that's been made. Steel Pulse, Aswad, Reggae Regular, Misty in Roots, Mikey Dread, Dennis Bovell and Linton Kwesi Johnson were doing groundbreaking stuff. I want to pick up where those artists left off. Of course, we don't come close to what those artists did, but I think that's where the idea comes from—that reggae can take other forms. I guess I'm just saying that I see our music as progressive reggae.” (Interview 2008).
- 2010: #2 ZonaReGGae BEST of ’09 - The People ‘REVIVAL’ [Portugal]
- 2009: Best of 2009 Reggae Records – ZonaReggae [Portugal]
- 2008: #1 Billboard Reggae Chart debut
- 2008: CMJ World Music Chart Top 10 debut
- 2008: iTunes Top 10 Reggae Records selection of 2008
- 2008: Best Dance/Dub/Club Album nomination NAR Lifestyle Music Awards [Barcelona, Spain]
- 2008: Most Anticipated Albums of 2008 – ThePier.org
Elliot Martin performed vocals with Iowa reggae band Public Property on their upcoming album "Work to Do" set for release in July 2009. Martin Collaborated with the Baltimore based band Can't Hang on their 2009 Release Ride The Lightrail
- All Time (1996)
- Among Them (1999)
- This Day (2000)
- Spirits All Around Us (2002)
- Justin Hinds & John Brown's Body - Live At Grassroots Festival (2002)
- Pressure Points (2005)
- Amplify (2008)
- Re-Amplify (2009)
- JBB IN DUB (2012)
- Kings And Queens (2013)
- Lesemann, T. Ballard (2011-07-27). "Futuristic Reggae-Rock". Charleston City Paper.
- Frazier, Jazmine (2013-05-23). "John Brown's Body". Art Voice.
- Nailen, Dan (2010-04-10). "The Pack a.d., King Khan & the Shrines, KRCL Concert, John Brown’s Body, OK Go". City Weekly.
- Burk, Greg (2003-10-30). "Dub". LA Weekly.
- Kelly, Neil (2013-06-12). "John Brown's Body: Kings and Queens". PopMatters.