Eugene Weekly : Music : 9.25.08

Putting the R in Reggae

Some say reggae music is fun to dance to; others say that it’s fun to listen to. But when it comes to Barrington Levy, it’s fun to do anything to.

Since the ’80s, Levy has inspired his fans and audiences with his unique voice and irresistible lyrics. Teaming up with producer Jah Screw in the late ’80s was one of the best moves he could’ve made, because together, they created some of reggae’s most unforgettable songs, including “Under Mi Sensi,” which became a reggae classic and remained on the reggae charts for weeks. But it doesn’t stop there: Today, many think of Levy as Jamaica’s number one singer of all time. 

Growing up, his biggest influences were Dennis Brown, Michael Jackson and the original Jackson 5, and at age 14, he was already performing in dance halls with a band he and his cousin formed. Levy is widely known as the first original singer of the dancehall era and has been deemed reggae’s “Mellow Canary” by virtue of his strong vocal style. 

Listening to his music is like listening to all of your favorite reggae artists in one. He has an exclusive style that’s catchy, sensational and easy to move to. Born in West Kingston, Jamaica, Levy isn’t just an expert on the reggae tradition; he’s also a legend.

Levy puts the ‘r’ in reggae and he’s coming to town to prove it at 8:30 pm Friday, September 26, at the WOW Hall. $25 adv.,  $30 door. — Courtney Jacobs


Rhythm What?

As a general rule, I tend to avoid things with “pimp” in the name. It’s the word’s connotations in society, you know? Pimpin’ out the hos, pimp my crib … ugh. So even though I knew my distaste wasn’t related to this musical use of the word, I couldn’t get behind a band with a name like The Rhythm Pimps. Until I actually listened to them. 

I had to admit to myself that these guys are not what I expected, and though they’ve kept a low profile around town for a while, that’s about to change with the upcoming release of their new album, Identity Crisis, a followup to their first album, 2003’s Groundscore.

The album starts out with “Miles Away From Nothing,” with a bouncy guitar line that winds through a screen of distortion. Though the song’s about a young soldier getting shipped off, the anti-war pathos can’t conceal a hook that grabs your feet and compels them to move. A couple of tracks later, the ferocious ska-punk rhythms of “The Ishmael Song” come off much like Fishbone’s street poetry. And then they move right into “Nothing To Prove,” with its swirling bass line on top of an infectiously dirty and fuzzy guitar. Throughout the album, the Pimps run in the same genre-crossing marathon as Sublime, with the singer’s voice even taking on the same tone as Brad Nowell’s at times. The whole thing took me back to 1996, when I played the shit out of Sublime. I don’t mean to suggest that the Pimps are just a tribute band, but it’s unmistakable that they tread that same sexy rhythmic foundation of ska, punk and funk that the singer’s muscular street-tough vernacular only embellishes. So, guys, I changed my mind. Go ahead: Pimp my world. The Rhythm Pimps play a CD release party at 10 pm Saturday, Sept. 27, at Oak Street Speakeasy. 21+ show. No cover. — Vanessa Salvia


All-Star Blues

An all-star band of popular blues musicians, many of whom have played with such blues legends as B.B. King and John Lee Hooker, performs this weekend in Albany. 

The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue, which released a live-recorded CD this year, features skilled blues guitarist Tommy Castro and his band the Tommy Castro Band; pianist, saxophonist and singer-songwriter Deanna Bogart; harmonica master Magic Dick and guitar player Ronnie Baker Brooks, son of blues great Lonnie Brooks.

The band was originally conceived at sea on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. The seafaring blues festival holds nightly pro jams, which inspired the forming of the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue. Now touring on dry land, the band is fronted by Castro, a San Jose native who has quickly gained acclaim as a talented blues musician respected by some of blues’ greatest performers. The Tommy Castro Band is a popular Bay Area band and Castro has been the opening act for some of B.B. King’s national tours. In the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue equally successful and dynamic blues performers join him.

The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue plays at 8 pm Sunday, Sept. 28, at the Venetian Theater, Albany. $20-$35. — Inka Bajandas