Dom Flemons – Prospect Hill: The American Songster Omnibus

 

Title: Prospect Hill: The American Songster Omnibus 
Artist: Dom Flemons 
Label: Omnivore 
Format: 2-CD set, Digital 
Release date: February 28, 2020 

 

Multi-instrumentalist and music historian Don Flemons, otherwise known as “The American Songster” and co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, has become one of the foremost experts and practitioners of African American folk music traditions. Flemons garnered a Grammy nomination and multiple awards for his last solo project, Black Cowboys (2018). Now Flemons is offering his first compilation, Prospect Hill: The American Songster Omnibus, which includes his Prospect Hill solo album from 2014, the EP What Got Over originally released on vinyl as a 2015 Record Store Day premiumand a new collection of twelve previously unissued instrumental tracks he’s pulled together under the title The Drum Major Instinct. If you didn’t score copies of these records when they first dropped, you should definitely pick up this nicely packaged two-disc set with extensive liner notes by Flemons and Vania Kinard and evocative tintype photographs by Timothy Duffy.   

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Jonestown – Winston Jarrett and The Righteous Flames

Jonestown

Title: Jonestown

Artist: Winston Jarrett and The Righteous Flames

Label: Omnivore

Format: CD, Digital

Release Date: August 3, 2018

 

Classic Reggae can never truly fall under into “out of sight, out of mind” category, but just in case we need a refresher, Omnivore Records has reissued one of the best offerings, Jonestown. Originally released by Nighthawk Records, Jonestown is the work of prolific reggae artists Winston Jarrett and Eggar Gordon (Baby Gee). Obtaining their start in 1965 from locally famous Kingston vocalist Alton Ellis, Winston and Gordon released multiple recordings, were featured on Coxsone Studio One’s many artistic endeavors, and recorded for other producers such as Duke Reid, Lee Perry and Joe Gibbs.

Jarrett’s transition to Nighthawk Records began in 1983 upon meeting the label’s producer Leroy Jody Pierson, who was working on a mix of Justin Hinds’ Travel With Love album. Together with Gordon, who was still performing in the area, Jarrett recorded Jonestown. After nearly 30 years, the album is being reissued along with new liner notes from Pierson and featuring previously unseen photos. Each song is a testament to the combined talents emanating from Jarrett and Gordon, with songs such as the smooth “Hold On To This Feeling” and the regional shout-out “Jonestown” testifying to the unique collaborative relationship dedicated to their quality art.

True legends never disappear, but rather they remain imbedded in our hearts forever. With its lyrical methodology and its definitive rhythmic soundscape, Jonestown lovingly reignites our passion for the reggae genre while simultaneously redistributing the sunshine and peace Jarrett and Gordon’s artistic oneness originally bestowed upon us.

Reviewed by Amy Aiyegbusi

 

 

Gene & Eddie – True Enough: Gene & Eddie with Sir Joe at Ru-Jac

gene-eddie
Title: True Enough: Gene & Eddie with Sir Joe at Ru-Jac

Artist: Gene & Eddie

Label: Omnivore

Formats: CD, LP, Digital

Release date: September 2, 2016

 

This new CD from Omnivore features the first-ever compilation of 16 single sides (plus 5 bonus tracks) cut by Washington, D.C soul duo Gene & Eddie for the Baltimore-based Ru-Jac label. True Enough also includes several rare sides recorded by the talented producer, songwriter, trumpeter and vocalist who recorded as Sir Joe. The careers of these three artists—otherwise known as Eddie Best, Jr., Eugene Alton Dorsett, and Joe Quarterman—intertwined throughout the 1960s through various regional acts.

Eddie & Gene had been performing in D.C.’s Black nightclubs when they were tapped to front the Nightcaps, adding the soul to a band comprised of white and Jewish musicians. This, in turn, opened up new avenues of opportunity for the group as well as time in the recording studio. Meanwhile, Joe Quarterman had formed several vocal groups including the Knights, and fronted two different female groups: the El Corols and the Maidens. By 1965 he was recording his own tracks for Ru-Jac owner Rufus E. Mitchell (1909-2003), including “Nobody Beats My Love” and “A Guy for You”—both included here. Two years later these three artists signed to Ru-Jac, with Quarterman writing songs for Gene & Eddie, including the CD’s rousing opening tracks, “I Would Cry” and “I Tell You.”

The liner notes by Kevin Coombe document the many trials and tribulations of these three artists for the remainder of the decade. As is the case with most struggling musicians, they never quite made the big time. For the most, all three part had left the music industry by the early ‘70s. Sir Joe released a single on Ru-Jac in 1970 featuring two of his own songs—“Baby, I’d Drop Every Thing” and the more hard driving “Every Day (I’ll Be Needing You)” (tracks 11 and 12). The final recordings by Gene & Eddie, “Darling I Love You” and “Why Do You Hurt Me,” were released in 1971 (tracks 15 and 16).

Listening to these tracks five decades later, one can certainly appreciate the raw energy and talent of the artists and songwriters, but perhaps a bit too raw and unpolished for chart success. Most of the songs sound more like demos, cut in a hurry and on a tight budget. Nevertheless, True Enough expands our knowledge of these three artists while shining a light on the local DC soul scene of the 1960s.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss