Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Duff Guide to Ska Fast Takes: Notable New Releases from Joe Scholes and Yellow Cap

(Reviews by Steve Shafer)

Joe Scholes Songbook Vol. II (CD, Richmond Records/digital download through Bandcamp, 2016): From Joachim Uerschels, singer/guitarist/songwriter for the late-80s German ska band The Braces ("Playing Darts") and force behind the great Reggae Steady Ska website, comes an album full of charming, catchy, and well-crafted acoustic ska-tinged singer-songwriter tracks--about falling in/out of love ("Perfect," "Ballerina Valerie," "Grave Situation," "Seven") or struggling to find the grit to go on when it seems like they're all out to get you ("The Life I Know," "Get Up, Fall Down," "Jam in Amsterdam"). It's a quiet, introspective, Sunday morning-type of record full of great beauty and sadness (and sprinkled with fun pop-culture references throughout), best used when you need to put yourself back together from Saturday night or build up strength to take on Monday morning and the working week. (The CD booklet includes all the lyrics--which are always appreciated--plus chords and fingering charts for the guitarists out there wanting to learn these songs.)

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Yellow Cap "Around the World" (heavyweight 7" single and digital download, Pork Pie Records, 2016):

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." -Mark Twain

Inspired by Twain's quote above, Germany's excellent ska/rocksteady act Yellow Cap has released a terrific new single which promotes the message that encountering and embracing different peoples and cultures (and music!) is a powerful antidote to the racism that is often born out of parochialism and ignorance (chorus: "I wanna go around the world with you/See everything with my own eyes"). But Yellow Cap also epitomize this notion, as they sojourned to Sao Paulo (for their fourth tour of Brazil) to record "Around the World" (check out the video!), which was produced, recorded and mixed by American Victor Rice, features Brazilian rapper Lurdes da Luz as well as the band Projeito Brasilidade and their singer Fernanda Sant'Anna, and sung in English, German, and Portuguese. The flip side contains the riddim track for budding DJs to chat over and recount their own journeys of discovery far from home.  Here's hoping that Yellow Cap stay on the road and keep taking quick breaks to record more music like this!

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