Earl Sixteen – Natty Farming [Vinyl]
It’s been a particularly fruitful spring for North Spanish producer multi-instrumentalist and vintage roots music channeller Roberto Sanchez. In late April he issued a second rocksteady and ska LP from Alpheus and his first vocal album in 10 years out on Blackboard Jungle Records with French kindred throwbacks Rockers Disciples came out in March. And now comes this vocal and dub showcase with seemingly ageless veteran Jamaican-born, London-based, singer Earl Sixteen.
Sixteen has likewise always kept himself busy, working with a diverse range of production houses worldwide. He met Sanchez when the younger man was touring Spain playing keyboards in backing bands. The resulting record, with bountiful watercolour cover-art by in-demand painter Sil Cunningham, pairs 8 organic lyrics and 8 dubs across backings that sound scarily reminiscent of the ones Sixteen rode back in the day.
Sanchez’ two previously released classic singer albums - with another Earl; Earl Zero and Milton Henry – paid homage to the Greenwich Farm and Wackies sounds respectively. Roberto is here painstakingly accurately revisiting the turn of the 80s at Channel One. The rhythms are actually built around drums by Roots Radics’ Style Scott – loaned from Linval Thompson (with whom Sanchez cut an unreleased longplayer in 2009). Scientist-era crashing snares, space opera Syndrums, taut, scratchy guiros and softly gibbering cuica drums abound.
And there are other nods to history: the bass-line to the title track is a cross between the famous Leon Synmoie production of Take 5 and the Ranking Joe/Jah Screw remake of Cuss Cuss. Yet even for those who dislike backward looking music it is truly remarkable how well Sanchez does what he does. His ear is unfailing and his mix like velvet. Bar some additional clarity it is literally being swept backwards in time.
Generally Sixteen sings in his ever mellifluous voice of upright living, nature and natural produce. There are minor key original compositions such as the aforementioned Natty Farming and Juicy Black - a tribute to a food vendor who Sixteen remembers from his youth in Marverly and who still sells in the area today. There are also major key cover versions of the Melodians’ Treasure Isle hit Everybody Bawling and Sly Stone’s Hot Fun in the Summertime, renamed as the arid and dreamy Hot Sun.
But most surprising is the way Earl brings proceedings up to date with a transposition of the UK indie band Blur’s Tender, redubbed Universal Love (Sixteen has toured and recorded with Blur’s Damon Albarn – plus Damon has a reggae connection through his sessions with fellow veteran Junior Dan in Gorillaz and his involvement in reissue label Honest Jon’s). The effortlessness with which Earl slides a standard onto a reggae rhythm recalls his revisit of William Devaughn’s Be Thankful on his 2011 showcase The Fittest for JahSolidRock and Not Easy At All. This album is deserving of comparison with the Dutch release as it is Sixteen’s best one since. -by Angus Taylor
|A1||Going To Africa|
|A3||Dread A General|
|B3||Love For You|
|B4||Stay With Me|
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