With 2007’s debut full-length, The Decay, The Pinstripes were introduced as one of the premier young groups exploring the roots of Ska and Reggae music. From the get-go, the ’Stripes members showed that their decision to become a Reggae-based band was no passing whim; the players’ passion for the music was palpable and their knowledge and study of early Reggae forms was evident in practically every groove. Those elements are still in full-force on I, but sharper skills in everything from performance and musicianship to arrangement and composition are apparent after just one listen. With The Pinstripes’ increased touring and development of a fanbase outside of their hometown, I is the perfect album to capitalize on the seemingly unstoppable momentum.
Early ’60s Ska (which preceded Rocksteady and Reggae) has had its moments of revival over the past 40 years — like the U.K.-spawned 2-Tone movement and the Third Wave explosion of the ’90s. But each time the style became massively popular, backlash ensued and the cornerstone artists would move on to other styles; likewise, the Rudy-come-latelies that jumped on the bandwagon often used faulty formulas (a common misstep: bands that left the “Punk” on high, but limited the “Ska” to awkward guitar stabs or maybe a trumpet player) and ultimately moved on to Swing or Emo or whatever else is in favor at the time.
With I, The Pinstripes go deeper into those early Jamaican roots to construct their own eclectic version, tapping into elements of Dub (particularly in the buoyant, sweeping bass lines), Roots Reggae and even Dancehall.
But one of the key details the band homes in on this time around is the influence of early American Soul music on Ska and Reggae’s development. Tracks like “I’ll Be Waiting” and “The Wokkabout” are primarily Soul/Funk workouts, adding to the fluid dynamics of I’s tracklisting. And, as they do on the more directly Ska or Reggae-inspired tracks, the ’Stripes never sound like fourth-generation copies of the real deals. The band’s stunning work on I is indicative of a collection of musicians that understands that there are some forms of music that can’t be learned in music school. The Pinstripes wear their love for music like a giant, glorious back tattoo where other musicians opt for something much smaller and, just in case, temporary.
The Pinstripes clearly understand where Reggae comes from; with I, they take it some place all their own with timeless poise and sophistication. If it finds the right ears, I should put The Pinstripes in the same league as more widely-known peers like The Aggrolites and Westbound Train. (www.thepinstripes.net)
Johnny Schott 1946-2012
Veteran local musician, talent booker and event promoter Johnny Schott passed away unexpectedly on the morning of Jan. 25 in his home in Tennessee. He was 65.
Schott played with many groups in the Cincinnati area dating back to the ’60s, starting with acts like The Radicals and The Black Watch, which led to major label offers that never panned out (due in no small part to Schott’s lack of interest in touring nonstop). In the early ’70s, he began a solo gig in Mount Adams that led to some booking for the club (New Dilly’s), his entry into event promotion.
Though he continued to perform, Schott began hosting popular open mic nights (where he became something of a mentor for up-and-coming musicians) and event promotion ultimately became his main gig. Johnny Schott Talent & Events, Inc. boasted of being the booker/promoter of the most free shows in the area, putting together musical lineups for a variety of local festivals and music series, like Mainstrasse’s Oktoberfest, Maifest and the Acoustic Lunch series at Garfield Park.
Schott — who had moved rural Tennessee with his wife Rachel in recent years — was such a warm and generous soul, it’s amazing he found his way into the music biz at all. Schott was a positive influence on young musicians and nearly anyone who worked with Schott on an event can tell you that his grace in the business was a shining example of how one should carry themselves in such a crazy field of work.
He may no longer be among us, but the memory of Johnny will continue to brighten many people’s lives for decades to come. (Visit the music blog for more on Schott, including comments from friends and acquaintances.)
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