Fifteen years ago, if you heard about a young, new Ska/Reggae band releasing an album, you’d be forgiven for thinking the crew played some variation on so-called Third Wave Ska, the Punk-driven, Ska-tinged sound popularized by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and others. But if you subscribe to the belief that music lovers and makers often turn to more pure forms of music in times of societal uncertainty (as some say is the case with the Indie Folk movement), The Newport Secret Six’s dedication to the earliest forms of Reggae and the authentic sound they come up with should be no surprise. There are no distorted guitar or gang-vocal shouts on Licking River Rocksteady. It’s simply a fantastic modern Reggae album bustling with energy, soul, personality and tradition.
The horns on Licking River are spectacular, responsible for the best licks on the release (the angular riff on “Funeral March” could’ve come from the mind of Sun Ra), while the bass provides deep Dub grooves, the guitarist shows off one of the best Reggae strum hands in the region, the drums are dynamic but (indeed) rock-steady and the organ trills and stabs are in line with what the pioneers had in mind when they came up with the sound.
Singer J Duckworth guides the Secret Six (formerly known as Duppy a Jamba) through the album with soulful vocals you can tell are pushed forth from the bottom of his gut.
If you love Reggae’s originators and have a soft spot for Two Tone Ska (and even The Clash’s forays, though the Six are more “Pressure Drop” than “White Man in Hammersmith Palais”) — and you don’t mind that the band references the Licking River instead of Montego Bay — then meet your new favorite local band, The Newport Secret Six.
The Newport Secret Six celebrate its debut album with a release party at the Southgate House this Friday. The band is joined by The Lions Rampant, The Frankl Project and Loudmouth for the 9 p.m. show. Hit the band up on Facebook here to keep up with the latest news (and listen to some of the latest tracks).
A version of this review appeared in CityBeat’s June 1 edition.