:: Joseph Israel :: Bluebird Theater :: January 15 ::
:: Fox Theatre :: January 18 ::
By Neil McIntyre
Being a red-haired white man from Tulsa, Oklahoma hasn’t stopped Joseph Israel from performing his own brand of roots reggae. The way he sees it, looks shouldn’t stop people from hearing him out.
Judging this book by its cover could lead people to missing out on one of reggae’s next big acts.
Israel has the tone, musicianship and lyrical quality it takes to be embraced by the world of the Rasta. His new album Gone are the Days is due out in March on Universal/NewDoor Records and was recorded partially at Bob Marley’s legendary studio in Kingston, Jamaica, Tuff Gong. Additionally, Israel’s new album features a host of Jamaica’s greatest session musicians including saxophonist Dean Fraser, bassist Chris Meredith, lead guitarist Earl ‘Chinna’ Smith, rhythm guitarist Ian ‘Breezy’ Coleman, drummer Wilburn ‘Squidley’ Cole, keyboardist Paul ‘Scooby’ Smith, pianists Franklyn ‘Bubbler’ Waul and Paul ‘Wrong Move’ Crossdale, and percussionist Uzziah ‘Sticky’ Thompson. And reggae greats Luciano, his accompanist Rochelle Bradshaw and Mikey General all sit in on a track.
After making numerous trips to “Jam Rock” throughout his youth, Israel amassed a great deal of spiritual knowledge and essential organic flavors. “That’s what really brought everyone together, that’s why all those guys wanted to work with me. They heard a message. My first day recording at Tuff Gong just a couple of people were in there and I was laying down the rhythms. By the time the day was over the place was full with like 200 people watching,” Israel said in a recent interview with The Marquee.
Although Israel is not a Rastafarian, he does study their teachings — and the kid has done his homework. A conversation with Israel constantly alternates between dialogue and quotes from his readings. While many of his reggae counterparts are caught up in “slackness” and content to move the dance floor, Israel is not content with just amusing his audiences, he plans to deliver a serious helping of message.
“My main mission is to let the people know that there truly is a creator, you know, and it’s the time for us to come together through the message of the scriptures. Not the message of religion but really just the message of the scriptures in the Bible. The creator truly is a God of love, a God of justice, a God of wisdom and of course all-powerful so, people who have been outcast or feel like they have been outcast by religion or different philosophies, all the confusion of the world, come about through us misunderstanding each other. Whether it’s religion or politics or all these different divisions on Earth. But, they (the scriptures) say that there is a true God that really isn’t a part of any of these ways of man that we all have inherited. He is really there for all of us and he wants us all to turn our mind to Him so that we start living the right way. It’s the awakening time,” said Israel.
On the title track of Gone are the Days, Israel sings about saying goodbye to the days of slumber and hello to something new: “The ways of this world are coming to an end; the ways of selfishness, the ways of warfare. The rising of living and loving your neighbor as you love yourself — that truly is coming about. Even though right now it seems that the dark forces are controlling most things, we know in the end good will overcome evil.”
It was through sharing readings of scripture that Israel hooked up with Luciano on a more personal level. The song they co-wrote, “Ruff Times” is by far one of Israel’s hottest efforts. Later, Israel toured extensively with Luciano and even opened for him here in Colorado. “Colorado is a great place for reggae music. Traveling there as a youth, you know, when I was like 18 or 19, I saw so many reggae shows, Reggae on the Rocks, I saw Burning Spear at the Boulder Theater. I always loved the vibes. Colorado is a nice free place, you know, it feels freed up when you’re there,” said Israel.
Continued study and some good radio airplay on the isle eventually led to Israel working along-side the first name in reggae: the Marleys. In fact, he recently did an acoustic set before Ziggy while on his U.S tour and his new touring band features Love Letta, a singer in Damien Marley’s group. “My producer played bass with Ziggy (Marley) for like twenty years. He plays like four bass lines on The MisEducation of Lauryn Hill. He’s an incredible musical genius. Our drummer, Marlon Davis, out of Little Rock, Ark., brings an R&B/ Gospel heritage. He’s bringing a new little vibe. Also, we have, from Arkansas, Matt Smith, a great guitar player. We’ve got a tough little package of talented people. It’s the greatest of joys to be with these people, believe me. The unity and love you feel from the album, it is from the musicians and we’re really going to come out and rock Colorado.
:: Joseph Israel ::
:: Bluebird Theater :: January 15 ::
:: Fox Theatre :: January 18 ::
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