The Frightnrs – “Nothing More To Say”

frightnrs

The Frightnrs – “Nothing More To Say” available on CD & vinyl.

Dave S. SoDo

As we cross over the threshold of winter’s frosty, unforgiving doorway, the collective attitude surrounding us is one of deflation and an impending dormancy in which many of us lie down, defeated, wondering if we can lick our wounds, decompress, and restore ourselves enough to bring any semblance of order and solace into a new year on this planet. Fortunately for us, there is still music, and all of the comfort and courage that it instills in and provides to its listeners. Enter, New York’s rocksteady revivalists, The Frightnrs, with their recent powerhouse debut full-length, “Nothing More To Say.” With it comes a deep breath of satisfaction – an exaltation, however fleeting, of having found a true sonic wonder as refreshing as it is authentic in capturing the brilliance of Jamaica’s prized roots reggae past.
The sheer soul and passion at display perfectly compliment its Daptone Records home, as evident in songs such as the album opener, “All My Tears”. You would be hard-pressed to find such genuine facets of songwriting in virtually any contemporary reggae act; tight production with no gimmicks or excessive novelties, majestic bellows of pristine harmonizing lead and backing vocals, all amidst a singular, intensively evocative tone. Each song stands on its own, confidently, showcasing a relatively young band deserving respect and acclaim for its definitive grasp of legitimized reggae nostalgia. Upon listening to these songs, you would not be in error in thinking that this is a remastered classic album from the likes of The Heptones, Delroy Wilson, or The Mighty Diamonds. Masterfully recorded and performed, this album does, indeed serve as “a testament”, as its press release suggests, to a time when lyrics and rhythms coalesced so remarkably well there was a tangible, visceral spirituality cast into its musicianship.

Bittersweet melodies engulf the senses as vocals and instrumentals surf confidently downstream songs that describe love, its pining, its loss, and its reflection. Consequently, it is difficult to adequately dissect this album without touching upon the dismay felt at the band’s lead singer and songwriter passing away from ALS just a few months before the album’s release. While driving down the road listening to the album, recently, I wondered if a follow-up album, with a new singer at the helm, would prove healthy for a band having released such a cohesive statement album as flawless and well-timed as “Nothing More To Say,” let alone necessary.
The album’s closer track, “Dispute”, seems to hint at a willingness to learn from mistakes and try again, with one’s newfound hindsight and experience, albeit ambiguously. There is uncertainty and discomfort at parting ties with someone you once loved and having their image remain as you take what you have gained from their love and filter it into a new relationship. The unclear haze of mood set by the nuanced piano keys paired with the shadowy chorus of “Don’t Wanna Go / But I Can’t Unknow / What You’ve Shown To Me” makes for a mystifying and certainly unique emotional comedown for an album that set out from the start to wear its heart on its sleeve.
Perhaps, the album’s closing sentiment is a meditation on life – that there is no definitive emotional catharsis, but a marbled amalgam of thoughts, experiences, and decisions that lead off endlessly in various directions with consequences that both help and hinder our future selves. Whatever various meanings can be drawn from the album, one thing is for certain: it is possible to take the sanctity of the old and not only recreate, but revitalize it in a contemporary context, for a new audience. In this rare feat, with “Nothing More To Say,” The Frightnrs have unequivocally done so.

Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens’ “Cold World”

Naomi Shelton

Joshua Daniel

In mid 2014 I picked up Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queen’s “Cold World” from Silver Platters based solely on the cover and the hype sticker Daptone Records placed on it. The sticker read that this record contained, “Soul music of the highest caliber.” I brought the record home and spun it. I then spun it again and again. I have not been able to put this record down. I even recommended this album to at least 6 friends that ask for my help with music. They immediately asked me to buy them a copy.

Born in the 40’s Naomi Shelton is an old school gospel singer. She started her career in church choirs and moved to adapt a soul sound to gospel music. Her music is akin to The Staple singers in many ways lyrically. The production on “Cold World” is spot on with Gabriel Roth running the show. You can expect the typical slick Daptone production you have heard with Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley and the Budos Band. Many of Daptone’s house players lend a hand in instrumentation.

Though this is a soul record I would almost label it folk lyrically. Most songs describe the trials of the world and rising up above the smoke. Other songs are devotional songs praising Jesus. Although, I am not a Christian I find this music to stands up above its religious undertones. It must be said this record was recorded in Mono. That holds some significance because this album would fit in and rival any soul or gospel music put out before it.

Have you paid attention to Charles Bradley on KEXP or maybe Sharon Jones? I feel that this record deserves the same attention as either of those two artists. Surprisingly there are copies still floating around in each of the Silver Platters locations. Go pick this record up and put it on your turntable or in your cd player and turn the music up. You literally will receive a smile on your face and a warm feeling in your heart after listening.