Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012: The Year in Ska - Jason Lawless (Lawless Street/Moondust Records)

Editor's Note: As the end of the calendar year sneaks up on me--as it always does, since the fall is always so damn busy!--I always scramble around to put together my "best of" lists of the ska singles, albums, reissues, books, etc. that I really enjoyed over the past year and want to highlight for all the ska fans out there. But I also thought it might be interesting to feature some other opinions, so I approached a diverse group of ska musicians, bloggers, DJs, and label heads to find out what their favorite ska things were in 2012. And thus the "2012: The Year in Ska" series was born! Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to participate--I really appreciate it!

Jason Lawless runs the extremely informative Lawless Street blog, as well as the excellent Moondust Record label

2012: The Year in Ska - Jason Lawless (Lawless Street/Moondust Records)

Top 5 Favorite Ska Releases
Jason Lawless and Doreen Shaffer

1) Skatalites - Walk With Me: This was released in the UK last year, but we just got around to getting a US release out. I think this collection is so tight and is one of their best modern collections. The band is still making tunes better than neary every other band in the land that say they play ska. Just so far ahead -- I mean they have been playing for a few years, right?

2) 2000 Tons of TNT - Reggae Mysteria: This is one of my favorite new artists. They're out of San Diego. Really exciting to hear 'em live and the tracks are tight (

3) Western Standard Time - A Big Band Tribute to the Skatalites: This goes without saying. The lineup in this band is unparalleled. A full orchestra doing Skatalites tunes with big band arrangements. It's just sublime.

4) The Lions - This Generation: This group of LA musicians is simple sublime. A true all-star collective that is making such sweet, sweet musical gems. The album isn't yet out, but it will be a real highlight of 2013 and take these guys to another level (

5) Los Granadians - Reggaelatico: These cats are doing the most exciting new music in the world right now. Everything they do is well thought out and fun. They make the music seem effortless, but there is a lot of depth and experimentation in their songs that is pushing the music forward. And yet it still seems classic. Love this album (

Top 5 Ska Shows

I didn't go to too many actually, unless you count all The Skatalites dates I did this year! That and all the amazing LA shows we've had! WOW.

The whole tour with The Skatalites, Sammy Kay, and The Delirians in April was the best time I've ever had. Hands down, the number one most important thing I've done in my career. I was so happy and blessed to be a part of that tour. You can see a bunch of updates from that tour at the Echoes of Kingston site:

There were so many legends that came through this year it's hard to say which ones were better than the others. They were all amazing. Here were a couple favorites:

Derrick Morgan in March

The Pioneers in June

The Gaylads in July

Mr. Symarip Roy Ellis in November

It's just so amazing that we can get these opportunities to see these legends perform. So many have been lost over the last few years.

Top Ska Merch

Gotta say getting to stop into Ska Brewing while out with The Skatalites was a huge highlight. Just a bunch of great guys and got treated to some of their outstanding concoctions and some nice swag to boot.

I continued to pick up every book that I could related to the music. I've got a pretty good collection, but there are a couple choice publications still missing (I'm looking at you "Studio One Covers"). 

I picked up the amazing "Soul Jazz The Label Art of Reggae Singles, A Visual History of Jamaican Reggae 1959-79",  and the new "The Encyclopedia of Reggae: The Golden Age of Roots Reggae," as well as Pauline Black's autobiography "Black By Design: A 2-Tone Memoir," which I just started reading.

The biggest get was one of the first run of the updated version of the now very rare and expensive "Boss Sounds" book. The updated version has a full color all new layout with tons more info than the first. I'd still like an original copy for my collection, but the new one is beautiful. If you love early reggae at all, this is a must have book. There were limited quantities of the first run and the next batch will take some time, but it's def worth it. This is a must have.

It's been great that it's the 50th anniversary of JA independence, 'cause so many things have been happening and with the celebration of 2 Tone the last couple of years, there has been a lot of looking back.

Top 5 Ska Regrets

There is only really one regret of the last year and it's a big one. That I can finally make good on a few things that I've had to put to the side this year due to health and financial issues that I've been dealing with. I've let the label fail on more than a few levels and I am very sad about that. I really want to make sure we do positive things and keep it moving forward. That's a promise.

There were more than a few good shows that I missed like Derrick Harriot in SF on NYE 2012. Luckily he'll be making a stop in LA in February.

This book. I need this book really bad: "Reggae Going International 1967- 1976: The Bunny ‘Striker’ Lee Story."

Top Ska Wishes for 2013

1) More bands getting out and touring, recording, and releasing music. This has to happen to remain vital and exciting. We need to get new blood into the music and the scene.

2) More legends getting a chance to perform before the specter of time catches up to them. Every month someone else passes away and getting a chance to see these great artists that have brought so many great tunes into the world is precious.

3) Getting to the London International Ska Fest again.

4) Echoes of Kingston Tour 2013 is even bigger than it was this year. This is very personal to me to create a tour that brings that sounds of vintage ska and rocksteady to to the masses.

5) A new Hepcat release!

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