Playing Reggae and the Secret of Singing

Folk and rock stuff, apart, I had a great year in 2016 as the bass guitarist for the now-defunct Cabstars, a three-piece reggae and ska band playing original music. A lot of energy is required to play original music really well AND find your own audience.  We had one good year, but the guitarist-singer wasn’t able to develop from a rhythm guitarist playing underneath keyboards and brass, to three-piece work.  Perhaps more difficult for him, was trying to lose the singing accent he’d acquired by imitating the ska and reggae singers he admired.

A singer – especially of original songs – must sound utterly genuine, or why should anybody waste time listening to them or their band?  I’d spent decades singing cover songs, so although I could do a pretty reasonable Mick Jagger etc, it didn’t sound like me. I didn’t understand that this was a problem until I started working with my producer Jez Coad.  Honky Tonk Women sung with the mid-Atlantic Jaggeresque vowels is what you expect to hear. But an unknown song, clearly about my experience, sounds odd sung with a Mick manqué accent.  In short, for the song to make sense and be listened to, you have to find a voice that’s genuinely you.

Anyway, I’d started off playing bass back in the Sixties in heavy rock three-piece bands, and love the immersion and solidarity of sinking back into the dark depths of “rhythm world” with a really good drummer and an extremely loud bass stack.  Plus I really like the control, energy and space that comes from just three musicians listening carefully to each other and playing hard.

Here’s a video from Howling Mad Productions of us playing as the basic three-piece “power” band at the Foxton Lock Festival in Jun 2016.

Cabstars playing “Nagging Song”:

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