Zak attack!

British musician blends reggae with the blues

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Monday, January 01, 2018

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British drummer Zak Starkey visited Jamaica in December to conduct recording sessions for a concept album that blends reggae with the blues.

The set hears a number of reggae artistes reworking American blues songs. Freddie McGregor and Toots Hibbert are two of the Jamaican acts who worked with Starkey on the project.

Sly and Robbie and Soul Syndicate guitarist Tony Chin were also involved in the sessions, which took place in Ocho Rios.

Starkey is the son of legendary drummer Ringo Starr of The Beatles. He is also drummer for famed rock band, The Who.

He told the Jamaica Observer he was excited to do an album that mixes two genres with a “similar subject matter”.

“I find both reggae music and American blues to be similar with a different approach. Very cleverly, Jamaican music is 'up' music with a serious message,” he explained. “US blues has a very similar message in the words but the music can be harder or more 'down', but both rock just as hard.”

Starkey did not go into details about the album but said the songs he selected are obscure blues. He added that most of the artistes who recorded asked him to select the tracks they performed.

“Which I did by carefully researching each artiste's vibe and feeling and choosing two or three for each to pick from. Some artistes were happy with all three! What a relief!” he exclaimed.

The 52-year-old Starkey has played with several classic rock bands including The Spencer Davis Group and The Who, as well as Oasis. A big reggae fan, he performed at the Peter Tosh tribute shows at Pulse in St Andrew last October and October 2016.

The blues had a presence in two of reggae's biggest bands. African American guitarists Al Anderson and Donald Kinsey, both heavily influenced by blues players like Albert King and Jimi Hendrix, recorded and toured with Bob Marley and The Wailers, and Peter Tosh's Word, Sound and Power.

Their work can be heard on Marley's Natty Dread and Rastaman Vibration albums; and Legalize It and Equal Rights by Tosh.

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