EP Review: EarthKry - Dandy Shandy
by Gardy Stein
When you stumble upon this release unawares, like, at a friend's party or on the "suggestions mode" of your streaming platform, you'll immediately think, "Wow, that's one of those dope Jamaican harmony-groups from the 70s… sweet voices over a swinging, analogue instrumental!" Well, your assumption would be correct but for the time stamp, because this dope Jamaican harmony-group does not come from a distant past… EarthKry are from the here and now! The Kingston four, in co-operation with the Wash House Music Group, have just released their new oeuvre Dandy Shandy, and looooord is this a piece of ear candy...
Aldayne Haughton (lead vocals & guitar), Phillip McFarlane (keyboard, harmonies & mix), Kamardo Blake (bass & harmonies) and Kieron Cunningham (drums & harmonies) revive a sound which, unfortunately, has become rare nowadays (although a few great artists such as Bitty McLean, Alpheus or The Frightnrs hold the flag up high), and is almost non-existent in the younger Jamaican music scene. EarthKry to the rescue! From the rocksteady-ish Ms. Mary (which was the first single of the EP, coming out in December 2021) to the Ska-infused See You Again, the eight songs included take us on a journey back to the golden era of Jamaican music 50 years ago.
More Roots influences become obvious in the groovy Soon Come, which both lyrically and chord-wise strongly reminds us of Bob Marley's classics like Stir It Up or Mellow Mood – and I think that's a beautiful thing! Love and relationships are subjects that are strongly present in several tracks. While Another Guy is a heart-rending lament of a man whose woman is cheating on him (amazing: the lowww bass-line and those vintage organ sounds!), Oh Oh Sarah begs the beloved to heed the singer's call on a joyful, up-tempo riddim. And what a call it is! "Take me to your garden, girl, for the fruits you bear I am starving…"
The band doesn't miss out on discussing serious topics neither, though, something they have so brilliantly done on their former releases Survival (2017) and Hard Road (2015). Thus, The Ghetto criticizes the soaring prices of inflation which leave poor people hungry, and Maaga Dog toys with the well-known Jamaican proverb "U sorry fi maaga dog, 'im tun roun bite u.", meaning that if you take pity on and try to caress a stray dog, he might bite you despite your good intentions. Many exciting Dub excursions make this track the perfect candidate for a Dub version, and none other than Alborosie made sure that the Maaga Dog Dub Mix expands and enriches the instrumental structures provided by the band, reverb and echo and all.
Turning to the visuals, we not only have to mention the fine cover art, highlighting a photo that shows children playing a game called Dandy Shandy and somehow depicts Jamaica in a nutshell (the speakers, the corner shop, the farmer loaded with bananas, the motorbike…), but also the videos. So far, you can enjoy watching Ms. Mary, a black-and-white beauty that perfectly fits the tune's vibe, the colorful See You Again, the cinematic Maaga Dog (shot by DZ Studios) and Soon Come, which is created by Phillip's very own McFarlane Filmz. Pure fyah!
Dandy Shandy is running up and down my playlist, and I can't get enough of it because you just feel that the music is alive and well throughout the release. It's breathing in the milliseconds at the beginning and the end of each song, where you can hear the slightest hint of grey noise from the analogue recording sessions. It's frolicking among the bubbling keyboards, the pumping bass, the on-point drums and the clean guitar skanks. It's vibrating with the vocal harmonies that so perfectly frame lead singer Aldayne's voice… simply put, this EP is a celebration of Jamaican music history!
On EarthKry's homepage, it says that they play "the ultimate Roots Rock Reggae" and, as you'll hopefully find out for yourself, that's exactly what they do. To end this review by quoting a comment frequently encountered under the band's videos (to which I full-heartedly agree): "We need more like this!"
EarthKry - Dandy Shandy EP
DIGITAL RELEASE [Wash House Music Group]
Release date: 01/20/2023
01. Ms Mary
02. The Ghetto
03. See You Again
04. Another Guy
05. Soon Come
06. Oh Sarah
07. Maaga Dog
08. Maaga Dog (Dub Mix)