If, for some tragic and unforeseen reason, Karl Dean were to lose his ever-loving mind and appoint me to his music council as some Chaplin-esque dictator-for-life, my very first order of business would be addressing Nashville's "reggae gap."
Despite being able to find just about any hyphen-heavy genre of music one could hope to find playing in any given number of clubs on any given Saturday — gospel-core, trad-noise, chamberstep, what have you — the genre that, at least in this author's eyes, is most conspicuous in its absence is reggae. Think about it for a second: When was the last time you even heard about a super-monster-heavyweight show like The Mighty Diamonds coming to Music City?
(And no, Bonnaroo doesn't count, because that's just ... different. Also, those weren't my knees on the Jumbotron during Jimmy Cliff. OK, they were, but I didn't inhale. Or something. Let us never speak of this again.)
Transgressions in Coffee County aside, there is a reggae audience in Nashville. Sure, it might not seem that way when you're knee-deep in cowboy hats and Barf-weiser on Lower Broad, or pinned under the bumper of a Beamer-driving 17-year-old at the Green Hills mall, or sneaking into Belmont's "Indie Rock 101: Coping with Good Reviews" class, but there is in fact a broad berth of folks tuned into the rockers from even further down south. But like the city itself, reggae's Nashville listenership is diverse, spread out and maybe a little unwieldy — the first fans that spring to mind are a certain microbiologist at Vanderbilt, some bike-riding, state-smashing anarcho-punks, a fistful of rappers and DJs, and this one cabbie with an intense collection of pre-Island Records tapes by The Wailers. (Best cab ride/conversation ever, by the way.)
And another thing: It's not like reggae and Nashville's shiniest export, country music, aren't cut from the same genre-cloth. If you look at the post-World War II development of the two genres, you'll find surprising similarities showing up in both methodology and aesthetic — from the factory-like recording style to the centrality of harmony groups and a deep sense of spirituality. (Yes, it's a different variety of spirituality than you'll find on the shelves of your local Salt & Pepper, but if we learned anything from the Great Murfreesboro Mosque Freakout of 2010, it's that we could all benefit from acknowledging and trying to understand that different people have different faith journeys. I'm not the only person that had that takeaway, right? Right?)
And even beyond the nuts and bolts of the two genres there's one glaring similarity that will probably explain better than anything else why these two genres are kissing cousins: During the classic period of the '60s and '70s, both were pulling from the same record pools. See, there used to be this thing called AM radio, and when you cranked up the power to, say, 50,000 watts, that signal could stretch across the better patter of our continent and beyond. "Clear channel" wasn't always a synonym for stultifying musical sameness, corporate chicanery and the separation of listenerships by statistical data. Nope, "clear channel" used to mean a signal that could make it from Minnesota to Montego Bay, enabling an entire generation of far-flung musicians from Bob Dylan to Bob Marley to share a similar set of influences.
Take, for instance, Ice on Fire, the most maligned album in The Mighty Diamonds' 40-year career: While it may provoke the ire of roots-reggae purists, it also stands as one of the best examples of the interplay between the musicians of the American South and our Caribbean neighbors. It's an album that's neither here nor there, but exists in the socio-psychological space shared by all of us.
Produced by Allen Toussaint at his commercial peak — 1977, the same year Glen Campbell was dominating the charts with Toussaint's stone-cold classic song "Southern Nights" — Ice on Fire slips through proto-jam band, back-to-nature-by-way-of-the-Allman-Brothers territory on "Country Living," digs deep into Nawlins funk on the Toussaint-penned Lee Dorsey classic "Get out of My Life Woman" and the ever-awesome "Sneaking Sally Through the Alley" before heading back to the islands on "Cat-O-Nine." While failing to exemplify reggae in its pure form, Ice on Fire does present a fantastic Venn diagram of our shared musical roots. (Pun completely and totally intended.) And if you're just looking for pure unadulterated reggae in all its irie goodness, The Mighty Diamonds have another, oh, 30 albums or so that exhibit the genre at its finest. There probably isn't a band better qualified to bridge Nashville's reggae gap, even if it is for just one night.
Good Morning Doyle, You asked so I'll explain. Last evening "snowman69" made the first comment…
ahem. the above article says SHUGGIE FUCKIN' OTIS is coming to play Nashville. why are…
PS: Thought I'd check out who is playing a the Station Inn myself and it…
@snowman69, Margarita Festival this evening, May 17, from 6PM-9PM in the Gulch between Pine ST…
Anything cool going on this weekend though? Seems bleak out there