Black Uhuru Release New Single... Jamaica To Here
11/05/2021 by Press Release
Legendary godfathers of reggae Black Uhuru are partnering with SoCal independent label LAW Records for the release of their new single Jamaica To Here, just months ahead of the storied band’s 50th anniversary.
The single captures Black Uhuru at their enduring best, passing the torch even as their flame continues to burn strong, in alignment with LAW’s mission of discovering and developing a new generation of emerging reggae artists, while simultaneously tracing a living historical connection between the genre’s future and its legendary Jamaican roots.
Featuring the band’s iconic founder Duckie Simpson — back out front with his earthy, soulful baritone, trading verses with Dylan Seid of Chico-based reggae rock outfit Dylans Dharma — the track is an unexpectedly groove-inducing cover of a 1976 folk song by English singer-songwriter Ralph McTell entitled From Clare To Here.
“I think that song was covered somethin like forty three-times before, and that was what fascinate me to cover it,” reflects Duckie. “It's a Irish song about longing for home and a girl by the name of Josephine. And I did the song now about a girl by the name of Colleen”.
Inspired by Duckie’s time roving around California, the track was written and recorded during a 13-month stint away from home, just prior to the COVID-19 outbreak: “It’s a long, long way from Jamaica to California. Was kinda getting homesick and stuff like that. In the original song, he’s thinking about Josephine in County Clare. And I'm thinking about Colleen back in Jamaica. So that's how the lyric came up. We're smoking a lot, and we're in the studio, bustin 'lyrics, you know? ‘Only time I feel alright is when I'm into smokin’. Eases all the pain inside and level out my thinking .... it's a long, long way from Jamaica to here.’ I wanted to go home, man.”
Owned and operated by the prolific artist/entrepreneurs of reggae-rock band Pepper (Yesod Williams, Kaleo Wassman, and Bret Bollinger), SoCal independent label LAW Records has gained a well-earned reputation as the tastemaker label when it comes to American reggae and reggae-rock. As trailblazers and the unofficial ambassadors of a music scene they are largely responsible for creating, the LAW team has been equally invested in developing the next generation of reggae-rock artists and connecting the genre’s wide open future with its legendary Jamaican roots.
“Strategically,” says LAW General Manager Paul Milbury, “what we want to do is connect the burgeoning American-Cali reggae scene back to the original legends, who helped create the scene that inspired this one: Black Uhuru is foremost among those legends. We really want to introduce the old to the new, and the new to the old, and facilitate a synergistic relationship between the two that keeps them feeding off of each other.”
Jamaica To Here carries on the band’s powerful legacy of conscious roots reggae that started in Kingston and has continued around the planet to influence a new generation of emerging reggae artists. From humble beginnings, Black Uhuru won the unsurprising honor of becoming the best-selling reggae act in history--second only to Bob Marley and the Wailers. Black Uhuru toured with the Rolling Stones and the Police, then bust down the barriers all on their own, barriers that have too often kept reggae stars out of the American mainstream. Several of their albums sold tens of millions of copies, including the GRAMMY-winning Anthem. The BBC called them “THE name to drop.”
In 2018, Black Uhuru returned to the studio for the first time in 15 years to record a new album. As The World Turns. Featuring original songs and strong cameos, it was one of the first times in years Duckie Simpson, iconic founder of the band, had stepped out in front again. To support the album, the band headed out on an East Coast US Tour with stops in major cities New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia, & Boston, which culminated in the band’s appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.
Not long after, Black Uhuru was approached by LAW Records: “Teaming up our label with Black Uhuru is mind blowing,” says LAW Records founding partner Yesod Williams, “like to the point where it doesn’t even seem real. This is arguably the most legendary name in reggae, a band whose music helped shape me, my band, and the whole state of Hawaii in the 80’s and 90’s where we grew up. As I approach this from my fandom perspective, I’m in complete awe. When I approach this from the perspective of LAW, ‘none will escape’. The task at hand is to reinvigorate the world with the Mighty BU, and we won’t stop till Duckie’s magic on Jamaica To Here is heard across the world, from now till forever!”
Black Uhuru was one of the first bands to seriously incorporate dub elements into their songs, with its undulating, up-front bass lines, and this single tips the hat to this approach. After spending five decades making music, Black Uhuru still manages to maintain their signature sound, keeping everything on tape, old-school: “Everything was analog,” says Simpson. The basic track was recorded at Hell Town Studios in California, with both Duckie and Dylan Seid on lead vocals. Then Simpson took the recording to Leebert Cougar Studio in Jamaica to do overdubs and mix in backing vocals by Nikki Burt and Elsa Green, guitars by Leebert “Gibby'' Morrison, horns by Everald Ray, and drums by Rolando Alphanso Wilson.
Most of the production was done by Duckie and Horace “King Hopeton” Campbell of Double Lion Studio, who also played keyboards. The track was mixed by Shaquille “Skunga” Kong, Med Dred, and Mark “Jah Servant'' Giles, while Dylan Seid, Dharma LaRocca & Kopavi Cannonn were the Executive Producers.
Says Williams of LAW Records, “We firmly believe in the magic of music at LAW and honoring where it came from. And in our mission here, we are gonna make sure it is known how integral Black Uhuru has been to modern reggae, Cali Reggae, alternative reggae, and just music in general. It's a new day, and “From Jamaica to Here” is the perfect beacon to bring us back together in love.”