The Stubborn All-Stars make a much-heralded return to their namesake label for Nex Music , as the all-star line-up of King Django (Skinnerbox), Victor Rice (ska über-producer and former Scofflaw), Agent Jay Nugent (ex-Agent 99), Vic Ruggiero (Slackers), and assorted friends stretch out in the fabled Version City studio to further explore ska music. This time they dig deeper into the roots of ska — a lot of tracks explore the old-school R&B feel that was such a key element of the nascent ska sound, while other tunes explore latter-day dub style. All are well worth a listen, though, as these boys have the chops to pull off just about anything you put in front of them.
Some of the best tracks on Nex Music concentrate on the vocals. For example, “From Time To Time” swings on sassy male-female vocal interplay, while “Saturday Night” is an easy groove built on gritty harmonies between Django and Venice Shoreline Chris Murray. Other interesting vocal experiments include Django singing in Spanish (the beautiful “No Hay Luz”) and French (“Coeur Blessé,” which features Django’s best Maurice Chevalier), and “The Road Song,” a toast-filled duet between Django and Rocker T.
The vocals are hardly the only highlight, though — graceful, understated horns (from the likes of the Toasters’ Lord Sledge, the newest Bosstone, Roman Fleysher, the Skoidats’ John Chapman, and Skinnerbox’s Rolf Langsjoen) and a solid rhythmic base of guitar, bass, and drums establish the mood of the record, and while everyone gets a chance to shine, no one part ever distracts from the songs as a whole. Other favorites include the dark, soulful, and spiritual “Wash Away Evil,” the gritty New York flavor of “Grand Masters,” the dubby instrumental “True Mental,” and Vic Ruggiero’s smooth solo spotlight, “I’ll Never Go Back Home.”
Overall, it’s another winning effort from SAS. If you’ve appreciated their past work (or if you just appreciate solid, well-crafted, rootsy ska music), you’ll be sure to enjoy this one, as well.
Stubborn Records, P.O. Box 176, 57 Pitt St., New York, NY 10002; http://www.stubbornrecords.com