It’s hard to believe that this beloved New York born, named one of Michigan’s adopted sons - singer-songwriter-Americana blues guitar master John Latini’s release from 2013 entitled, “Lovers, Liars & Losers” – one of the best albums of the year, yet it has yet to receive any Michigan press.
This album offers a dozen songs all penned by Latini and brings his always clever lyrics; straight forward vocal styling in the likes of Tom Waits meets John Hiatt and hijacks Chuck E. Weiss with humor grown simultaneously sharper and warmer with age. Arrangements including horns, strings, B3, piano, organ, fiddle and banjo are tight and inspired.
His own press states that “Latini seems to be a perennial nominee for every Southeast Michigan music award, and winner of many, including the Metro Detroit Songwriting Grand Prize in 2004 and the Detroit Blues Challenge winner in both 2008 and 2009, and songwriting honors in North Carolina and Texas.
He personifies the best that the heartland, and especially Michigan’s righteous rock history, has to offer: an honest, straight-ahead, no-nonsense commitment to real songs about real people. Latini also knows that all the best American music flowers from blues roots…” His newest release only adds to these accolades.
“Lovers, Liars & Losers” includes songs of his love of grown (too fast) children “That’s My Little Baby” and “Gotta Have My Babies”, love and loss of baseball in “National Pastime” and loss of love’s rapt attention with “I’m “Nobody Again””. Liars of love abound on this album with “She Holds Her Husband” and “I Never Liked You”. Love of his audience shines on “Here’s To You” and my personal favorite where he reminds us that losers are worthy too, “Koko (don’t know when to quit)”.
Editor’s Note: John Latini will appear at Bay City State Recreation Area’s ‘Music From the Marsh’ on July 26th at 7 PM. These are free concerts, however vehicles need the Recreation Passport on their license or sticker on their windshield for the $11.00 annual fee.
Jeff Karoub • Find a Shore
The 2014 self-released six song EP by Jeff Karoub of Dearborn is called “Find a Shore”. This disc is a fine example of extraordinary grassroots Americana folk out of southern Michigan. Karoub wrote these heartfelt songs, plays guitar, mandolin, fiddle and sings in a clear Art Garfunkel or old Cat Stevens now Yusuf Islam style.
Sweet harmony comes from Natalie May Palms on the song “Archives of Our Lives” that offers his vision of what’s really important upon reflection no matter where one finds themselves on life’s journey. “Home” tells where his heart his with Putnam Smith on guitar and harmony vocals. My favorite song, “Sinners and Saints” also offers Putnam Smith’s harmony vocals and mandolin with a message that fits the eclectic group who would enjoy these songs. “I’ve been blessed to know sinners; I’ve been blessed to know saints. Been blessed to know those who know which they are and those who know which they ain’t.” - Chorus Lyrics from “Sinners and Saints”.
Each of these six pleasing songs seems to lead into the next and I find myself playing it on repeat. They draw the listener in to take a long swim and perhaps find a shore of our own. I look forward to more music from Karoub perhaps inspired by his day job as an Associated Press writer here in Michigan. He must know many more Sinners and Saints with stories ready for his interpretation.
Strong Boss Tone - Distinctive Acoustic Featuring a New Concept
By Bo White
There are several highlights in this incredibly delicious brew of hybrid roots music. Wall is a master manipulator of sounds and words. He is often caught in a tongue-in-cheek reverie of all that’s honest and pure in the song cycles he pursues. His craft is well honed and he’s at a time in his life when he can damn well do whatever he wants to do, which is all the better for as we are learning from a master. His use of humor can be sly with a nudge and a wink as well as over-the-top belly laughing, Dangerfield style. He’s always at his best when he’s kidding on the square for a deeper meaning and you’ve got to love his deep pocket understanding of what makes us tick especially when we don’t have a clue. We are the grasshopper and Wall is the all-knowing Miyagi…wax on, wax off.
The disc opens with Audience of 3, a spiritedly Beatlesque number with jangly guitars and sweet slide fills that are reminiscent of George Harrison’s best work in the mid-to late sixties. Wall’s hardy tenor has the perfect pitch and tone for his home grown lyrics and quirky humor. It hearkens back to a time when melody and harmony were integral parts of a hit record.
The next song, Muncea shuffles along without a worry in the world despite the theme of a lost love. It’s a timeless story an old flame that set men on fire. They were young and in love but it was a doomed relationship from the very start.
Sag & Awe is as clever as its title. The minor chords suggest that there are problems yet to come. Wall sings about the rust in Saginaw and bemoans the suits that are fishing in the new economy and the seeds you can’t see of decline that you can see. Wall intones that “It should be our national anthem. The anger in the truth is palpable. Perhaps we should rise up against the shills on Wall Street, growing richer while the rest of us pick up the nickels and dimes.”
Wall is a character of the nth degree, poised with truth and a sense of justice. We need him to keep his vision alive. He sings: It’s about the rust out here in Saginaw…There are more than many reasons….I’m not talking falsely.
Wall can help us keep our rhythm, tap our toes and dance out loud and still rail against injustice. He speaks truth with a sparkle in his eye. He’s got the look and the feel of a humble servant, a visionary for the people.
Wall switches gears with Rayford Sawdust. This is old time sepia-toned acoustic country picking . It is a bittersweet reminiscence of an earlier time when a young family was forming, one starting to crawl and one on the way. He said his love would never die, she pawned her wedding rings.
Ginger Snap is a delightful road movie with the protagonist (Wall) chasing down his errant girlfriend, going from Mobile to Biloxi, New Orleans and Beaumont. A slice of accordion and some tasty acoustic slide provide a funky musical landscape. The lyrics give you a sense of Wall’s futility: She ain’t a girl as she’s a woman…fact ain’t bragging….She was proto hip, proto rap////She was all the talk with high cheek bones…And a curl like a ginger snap….Lazy as a Sunday nap
Brand New Me, Same Old Fool is a laugh out loud old fashioned country hoedown with all the right instruments. There is some sweet pickin’ with the banjo, guitar and fiddle all getting their turn in the barrel. The drummer keeps the shuffle cocked and loaded. There is a homely wisdom in the lyrics: Where ever you go, well there you are….I wade in the water and I found quicksand
It is laugh-out-loud goodtime. This is Wall at his best. Great tune. The rest of the disc is filled with similar delights. Delta Roux is righteous New Orleans funk that borrowed a riff from Winchester Cathedral. The Ballad of Jim West is about an overachiever who lives in a big white mansion that has big black gates.
Wall’s irony shines throughout the disc. Oh, the Winds is an accapella masterpiece infused with Rasta rhythms. The final tune is a love song entitled Be My Baby Again. It has an old fashioned Brill building chord progression softened by the acoustic guitar. It could be the perfect fifties rocker.
Leave it to Bob Wall to write a total masterwork, a song so good it should be a hit, somewhere in the caves and crevices where good music still flourishes without being pre-empted, co-opted and recycled. This song is long on craft, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. This is what music is all about. Much thanks to Bob Wall for the vision and the guts. He is the keeper of the flame!
The Process: Featuring Lord Kimo • The Fire Is Burning
By Bo White • Additional Reporting by Robert Martin
David Asher and boyhood pal Garrick Owen formed the nucleus of the Process in 1989 and they never looked back. They were child prodigies who understood mother earth was damaged at birth of creation and the evolution of man. It was not her fault. They had this deep-seated hunger that seemed to be linked to something earlier. Their search was like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the mountain, only for Asher the struggle was redemptive and it provided him a vision of his own humanity like a wave cresting upward and smashing against the boulders hidden by the deep blue seascape.
Asher’s vision quest led him to a suspicion that theories and dogma seemed barren, empty of purpose and truth. He realized in his passion that he grabbed hardest for that which is there and then not there. The Process was the vehicle for Asher’s spiritual awakening and global awareness. He realized that music was the co-creator of his reality. He just needed to collaborate with his band of brothers in this world of total energy where the music will never stop and we will keep on dancing.
So on this disc Asher assembled his band of Reggae misfits with Garrick Owen (guitar), Bill Heffelfinger (Keyboards), Gabe Gonzales (drums), and Seth Peyton (bass, keyboards, vocals) along with Scientist and David Harrow working out the mixes. Lord Kimo adds his flair as a singer and a musical composer artist to the mix. Originally from England, he rubs shoulders with some heavy hitters including 50 Cent,The Wailers, Public Enemy and Sean Paul.
Asher is on his game combining melody and harmony with a heavy metal explosion of sound and fury. The familiar reggae riff and roar is not lost in the heat and remains an integral part of Asher’s vision. A celebration is experienced in the music, a universal language for all living creatures. He brings in an incredible team of musicians, engineers and mix masters to play in another playground, at least for a while.
The Process is creating a tomorrow where the mind keeps leap frogging over boredom and repetition while reframing bad things as a possibility that is not inevitable. It’s a default position to be sure. Asher and his mates use their craft as a springboard to enlightenment even if the public doesn’t always buy into it. It’s like helping someone across the street when they don’t want to go.
The disc opens with the title track The Fire is Burning (Scientist vocal mix) followed by a seamless connection to each of the other Fire is Burning arrangements like separate movements in a concerto that are linked by a common musical thread. The mixes are powerful yet contain dreamlike passages, in a stream of consciousness that imbue the same lyrics with an alternate sense of texture and meaning that give each of the final mixes from the Scientist Dimension X Mix and Scientist Destroys the Conqueror Worm Dub to, a grand finale with Dragon Youth-Dicho Remix.
In the great tradition of Bob Marley, Asher is a passionate singer that never holds back. His temperature is rising when he shouts out his anthems of freedom. You can get a visceral sense of where Asher stands with equal rights, justice and truth. The lyrics are obscure for a newcomer unfamiliar with Asher’s Rasta poetry.
So here’s a sample: The fire is burning, the flames get higher / Come let’s trample the dragon, then we catch the vampire / Let the fire burn and purify all weak heart conceptions / Kill cramp and paralyze, wipe them out of creation / Hold them Rasta hold them, hold them in a higher region / Catch them Rasta, catch them when they run / Hold them Rasta, hold them in a higher region / Catch them Rasta catch them when they run / Rise up and defend the youth, with equal rights, justice and truth / Just like John Brown, throw the dragon down / When the wicked come around
Lord Kimo’s rap: Truth is Divine / Fight back with your mind
David Asher provided additional clarity on the meaning of the lyrics: “Fire is burning is a symbolic statement of objection or purification. Rastafari burns fire on political corruption, persecution, immorality and exploitation i.e., weak heart conceptions. To trample the dragon means to overcome these things in your life. To kill cramp and paralyze all weak heart conceptions is to purify your heart by wiping these things from it. To hold them in a higher region is to recognize these things and deal with them. John Brown is the abolitionist who took an uncompromising stance on evil.”
Coda: The Reggae/Dub Festival • Friday, July 18th
David Asher and the Process continues to record and tour out of their home bases in Saginaw and Detroit. The Fire is Burning disc is just a taste of a larger project that the Process hope to complete in the upcoming year. They are #1 on the Detroit reggae charts and are collaborating with the legendary Dick Wagner who will provide some tasty guitar on the new full length Process album. Asher has also developed a Reggae/Dub Festival @ White’s Bar on Friday July 18th, 2pm to 2am. No cover!
We asked David to give us some background on the origins of this inaugural festival and some of the ‘Selectors’ that will be featured at the festival.
“Shane Swank and I were chatting one night and he actually suggested the idea to me,” explains Asher. “It seemed like a great idea. We had been hosting these Wednesday Night Reggae gigs at Whites for over 3 years and we wanted to take it to a higher level. The people who are spinning are some of my favorite Selectors; many of them are friends of mine. Their knowledge of Reggae, Ska and Dub is deep and wide.”
DJ Ash Ra: David Asher is the vocalist and songwriter for the rock reggae group THE PROCESS.
He has also been working as a reggae selector for over ten years, and founded Shaolin Sound System around three years ago, to showcase other selectors, in addition to himself. Asher specializes in cultural roots music, Ska and dub.
DJ Ras D Baba: Derrick Davis, a Saginaw native and former Atlanta GA resident, Derrick joined the Shaolin Sound Squad are two years ago. Derrick is also a songwriter, vocalist and artist. He specializes in modern roots music and lovers rock reggae.
Selecta Ras Token: Seth Payton. Seth Payton returns to the Shaolin Sound fold after an extended hiatus. Seth is the vocalist of the popular Ska group Stamp'D and also fronts the Reggae group Roach King and the Resonators. Seth plays a selection of old and new school roots music.
DJ Michael A: Michael Absher is a well-known DJ in the Flint area, having been spinning music for several years. Michael is known in Flint as "The Duke Of Downtown". He was a popular DeeJay at WFBE in Flint, during the 90's and has continued in the club scene. His specialties include Dub music and old and new school Reggae.
DJ Lionheart: Niel Williams, aka Lionheart was born in the West Indies and moved to New York City, where he began developing his skills as a Reggae DJ. He has since lived in Flint Michigan and now resides in Toronto. Lionheart specializes in modern and old school Reggae music.
Selecta I-Cinto: is Thick As Thieves MC Jacinto. Jacinto has been planning for quite some time to break out his alter ego Reggae Selector persona. This is his debut as a selector and just as he entertains and educates with Thick As Thieves, he will be dropping some massive selections at Dubfest.
Selecter Chris Delas: Chris is the host of the popular Internet radio program "Tapdetroit.com". His knowledge of the music is deep and wide, and he plays mostly old school reggae, with some surprises thrown in.
Rude Boy Reggae: A part of the Ann Arbor Reggae Crew. Rude Boy Reggae has entertained audiences in the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti area for several years, with a mix of modern and old school roots, and dancehall music. The crew brings with them spokes-models and Bob Marley products.
Shaolin Sound System, formed around four years ago, Shaolin Sound allowed its team of selectors to set themselves on a path to being a tour de force of 50 years of Reggae music history and diversity!