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“THE DELROY WILSON STORY” A FRIEND’S STRONG VOICE REPRISES THE WORK OF A REGGAE LEGEND!

An unusual and wonderful thing happened in the United States this fall, in both south Florida and New York City. A singer who is long part of reggae history suddenly shot to the top of local music charts with a cover of I Shall Not Remove. The singer was Jah Ruby, and the song is now part of a 21-song tribute to his childhood friend, Delroy WilsonThe Delroy Wilson Story is not just a reggae tribute however, but a reworking of a number of classic songs delivered in the strong, clear voice of a man who has been at the center of reggae culture since the 1960s.

No man is better suited to re-create these classic songs. Jah Ruby was a childhood friend of Wilson’s and likewise a friend of Bob Marley in the days before Nesta became mega. He has hob-nobbed all his life with the reggae greats, appeared in the movie Rockers, and in 1977 contributed to reggae music with his album from Dynamic Dread Affairs. That album showed him as a very capable cultural toaster right up there with I-RoyU-Roy, and Dennis Alcapone. Upon a close listening to that album one can hear a spot-on voice, far beyond customary toaster chanting. It was therefore no surprise when the 2009 roots-based Glen Washington Meets Jah Ruby was such a superb (and underestimated) album. The two singers combined their voices beautifully and the album is a treasure.

jah rubyHis new album—The Delroy Wilson Story—furthers the respect due to this man. It comes from Miami-based Heavybeat Records. Each of the songs on the album is sung by Jah Ruby (aka Everard Metcalf), and all are covers of Delroy Wilson tunes. The arrangements never stray far from the originals yet all of the music and all of the harmony singing is new for this record. Included are such classics as I Am Not a KingConquer Me, the rocksteady standard Dancing MoodBetter Must Come, Scratch Perry’s Spit in the Sky, and my personal favorite, the haunting Run for your Life. (I wish Riding for a Fall was here.)

Delroy Wilson

Delroy Wilson

Reggae lost Trenchtown’s Delroy Wilson in 1995. By that time he had long shed his image as a child star. Though his career lessened towards the later years of his life it left us with a long list of classic tunes. Better Must Come was the theme song for Michael Manley’s People’s National Party. Cool Operator gave Wilson a nickname. I Shall Not Remove, the African-American spiritual, entered reggae fame in versions by Cornell Campbelland by Wilson. Delroy worked with all the greats, ScratchBunny LeeJoe Gibbs, among others. Spanning ska, rocksteady, and reggae, the arc of Wilson’s career is a study in reggae history. How great it is now to have The Delroy Wilson Story, in which Jah Ruby and Heavybeat give us a modern, well produced set of songs. Make no mistake though, this is not just nostalgia; the album stands alone as an inspiring set of music. Jah Ruby cares about these songs and it shows in all twenty one of them.

Jah Ruby

Jah Ruby

Big up to the people at Heavybeat for putting this together. The downloadable CD is available from their website, Heavybeat.com. As of this writing a physical CD is not yet available, but it will be soon and it will be a double CD and—so exciting—it will include a spoken reminiscence by Jah Ruby about his friendship with Wilson. This offering should be in the playlists of all reggae fans, and it is a most welcome addition to reggae music.

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