Burning Up Lil’ Bitts (Single)
By the time you read this, the 2015 Trinidad soca season would be in full swing as new tracks are released daily. Lil’ Bitts may have gotten the jump on her peers by releasing her new soca tune, Burning Up in September 2014. This tiny beauty has defied the odds on the Trinidad performing circuit by sustaining her popularity. With this track, Bitts has also defied the trend of multiple artists “riding the riddim” early in the soca song cycle with an individual track that plays to our sense of partying. Produced by prolific soca hit-makers Precision Productions, the groove is infectious and the message is clear: this is wining time! Lyrics like “Right now, I hot, too hot to handle / Careful, your back might get dismantle…” might suggest that one is in for the time of their life (or worse,) but this leader of the pack forecasts a hot Carnival 2015.
Pursuit of Happiness Im4rio
When classically-trained pianist, Im4rio (Mario Callender), temporarily steps away from his role as keyboardist for a top soca artist in Trinidad to pursue a solo project, this is what one gets. Pursuit of Happiness realises in a short way how easy it is to make “local music” exportable. In the era when EDM pioneer Daft Punk is a Grammy darling and EDM is a global phenomenon, the allure of this music is obvious, more so in a Trinidad that never shuns popular and varied. Im4rio, on this five-track EP is delivering a sound that is enough to make one dance like no one is watching. The harmonic impulse feeds the emotional undercurrent of the songs here. “All my troubles, we’re gonna make it better with the beauty from our minds,” is a lyric that encapsulates what Im4rio’s is delivering on this EP: slamming music that will be an elixir for happiness.
#LiveAndUncut Elan Trotman Group
Barbadian saxophonist, Elan Trotman serves up on this eighth album #LiveAndUncut (“Live and Uncut” for the Twitter hashtag averse) a tropical feel that defines the elements of smooth jazz that have a legion of fans reaching for a Rum Punch and the resort menu. Combining catchy hooks and warm melodies, with the purposeful blending of danceable calypso and reggae rhythms is a strategy that would separate Elan from the rest of the pack of smooth jazz saxophonists. Lead single, “Smooth ‘n’ Saxy” aptly describes the mood of the album that introduces the listening audience to the steelpan sound as an ambience enhancer. The track “Simon Paul” slyly mimics Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” melodic charm to cheerful results finding the Caribbean jam where there was a hint before. “Bop & Run” is a calypso re-invented while “Funkalypso” is a jazz soloist’s paradise. This album should be a must-have on any jazz or Caribbean playlist.
Dangerously Roots: Journey From August Town Duane Stephenson
To release an album of roots reggae in 2014 may be viewed like releasing an album of early delta blues today: there are some genres that are beyond being passé. Duane Stephenson’s new album Dangerously Roots revels in the origins of that music that bubbled up from a Jamaica in the 1970s during economic transition. Lyrics that were read as conscious in the evocation of the struggles of the “small man” and plaintive in the proud legacy of the spoken and written words of this island predominated. This is the sound of reggae before it morphed into the pop-infused melange that signalled the rise of the dancehall artist. The album’s first single “Cool Runnings” paradoxically makes the case that “dancehall nice again” in words that hover over a riddim that is straight from the 1970s golden era of reggae. That is the constant surprise of the album that switches eras and sounds yet remains ital.
- These reviews appear in the November/December 2014 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2014, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.