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The Elovaters: Castles
by George Graham
(Turn Up Records, as broadcast on WVIA-FM 8/25/2021)
Reggae may have had its start in Jamaica, but there are a lot of great bands from all over the globe, including various countries in Africa, plus England, Australia, even the island of Guam. The reggaeton style that has been topping the charts originated in Puerto Rico, incorporating reggae. And of course, there are quite a few reggae bands from the USA. One of the best is the Elovaters, who formed in 2014 in the Boston area. They originally called themselves the Cornerstone, but changed their name to the Elovaters, but still titled their 2017 debut album, The Cornerstone, a recording we featured on this review series at the time. The band is now out with their third full length album, after an EP and a series of singles. The new release is called Castles.
The Elovaters emphasize the good-time aspect of the music, generally eschewing protest songs or Rastafarian themes. Their sound often includes a folky acoustic guitar, and they are not afraid to go in their own stylistic direction. At times, their music can resemble the breezy island sound of Jack Johnson, but the Elovators are more wide-ranging. Lead vocalist Jackson Wetherbee has a light airy sound, that can at times evoke the charisma of Bob Marley, but also has a folky quality.
Weatherbee describes Castles as the band’s most eclectic yet. There are a number of guests including G. Love of G. Love and Special Sauce, members of the bands Stick Figure, the Movement, and Orange Grove, a reggae group from the island Saint-Martin. The music runs from folky with acoustic guitars, to a little hip-hop and includes a fair amount of reggae dub-style studio effects. But it all comes together very well in a very attractive album, with a generally positive sound and message. This is definitely feel-good music that carries an easy dance beat, and lyrics that are variations on love songs or recollections of good times.
The sextet traveled to Oakland California to record with a producer who goes by the name Johnny Cosmic. He did a great job with keeping a positive vibe while making things interesting with some well-handled studio effects, typical of the dub style of reggae.
Opening the generous 16-song album is Be Alright which is self-explanatory. The Elevators’ blend of melodic pop and reggae is thoroughly appealing. <<>>
More toward classic reggae in its beat is a piece called Shots Fired whose title is a metaphor in the lyrics, rather than story of violence. <<>>
One of the more unexpected guests on the album is Luke Mitrani, the Olympic snow boarder, who appears on the track Bright Side. He might have been better sticking with his athletic pursuits. <<>>
The Saint-Martin band Orange Grove makes makes their guest appearance on Margaritas, another feel-good song evoking relaxing times on the beach. <<>>
G. Love makes makes his appearance on Delorean a kind of reminiscence to the time of the “Back to the Future” movies. <<>>
The song Moon evokes the Police’s Walking on the Moon but the Elovaters take it in their own direction. <<>>
One of the highlights of the album is Down the Road which has a somewhat more traditional reggae sound, while adding in the echo effects favored by reggae producers in their dub versions of songs. <<>>
The album ends with Cool River, which opens in the full acoustic folk mode <<>> before the band brings things back to reggae-land. <<>>
Castles, the new third full album by the Boston area reggae band The Elovaters, is a kind of ideal set of music for relaxing at the beach, or imagining that you are. Th e music is melodic and appealing, with the charismatic lead vocals of Jackson Wetherbee. The reggae beats are rather gentle and breezy, and the lyrics have the mood that matches the sunny music. This is not music for pondering the problems of the world. And it’s a reminder that sometimes it’s nice just to have a good time with taking it easy, perhaps having a nice dance with someone special. But despite that, the music’s eclecticism keeps things interesting and the musicianship is first rate.
Our grade for sound quality is an A. The mix and vocals are recorded cleanly and with a warm sound, while the studio effects – the reggae dub style echoes and spaciness are handled very well. Kudos to producer Johnny Cosmic.
The Elovaters can combine the best of two worlds, keeping the reggae beat, but taking it to other places, while still keeping the party going.
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