May 18, 2024

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Concert review: All of us or none by J. Navarro – The Traitors and the Scotch Bonnets – The Magic Bag-Ferndale, MI: Video, Photos

Reverend Guitars presents: J Navarro & The Traitors “All Of Us Or None” Record Release with The Scotch Bonnets & Special Guests!

J. Navarro & The Traitors: Detroit’s 2tone ska super group, featuring Jason Navarro of the Suicide Machines, and Eric Abbey of 1592. Highly recommended if you dig bands like The Specials, The Selecter, and Pilfers. The Scotch Bonnets, Grey Matter and Macho open the show.

That’s right, J. Navarro and the Traitors infiltrated The Magic Bag on saturday night for the release of their new album All of Us or None.

This Detroit Ska band was formed by Jason Navarro and Eric Abbey; both of whom were big in the scene but had never played together. Joining them for the night’s festivities were Macho (Detroit MI), Grey Matter (Lansing, MI), and all the way from Baltimore, the Scotch Bonnets.

Macho kicked off the night with what they describe as ‘Witchy-Punk’. Their set was short and left the crowd wanting more. Grey Matter took the stage next. With their thought-provoking lyrics and good riffs, they definitely got the crowd moving. Scotch Bonnets were next on the line-up and even though it wasn’t billed as such, they were co-headliners. Led by singer, song-writer, and guitarist Kristin Forbes this band blends great Jamaican grooves, R & B, and Rock.

Jason Navarro (who by the way, is in as many bands as Trump has pending lawsuits) and the Traitors took . After Jay thanked Eric Abbey (Keyboard-vocals) for his production work on the new album the band jumped into “One Hand” the first track off of the new album. The guys played the entire new album with a few tracks from their EP Short Changed Future and album Criminals and Lions. Nothing but smiles and tired feet by the time they stopped playing and one lucky fan walked out with a new guitar raffled off by the sponsor of the show, Reverend Guitars.

J Navarro & The Traitors third release and second full length album like their previous albums, it’s a solid mix of the Traitors unique blend of two tone, Blues, Reggae, and punk, while maintaining Jay Navarro’s poignant lyrics that call for unity and action. The move to Bad Time Records, in this regard, makes complete sense as the messages are consistent throughout the NewTone ska sound that has become ubiquitous with Bad Time Records. This message of fighting for equality and unity, for community and a just world without exploitation continues to get amplified through a larger coalition of artists- each unique in the specifics and the sound, but consistently echoing the same themes.

The opening track on this album was also the first single for the album- “One Hand”. Opening with a punk guitar and a cymbal keeping time, we are immediately welcomed by the first gang vocals of the album, with a repeated “Hey”. I love this intro to the album, it invites the listener to become a part of the experience from the outset. This isn’t going to be an album you are going to listen to, this is going to be an album that you are a part of. The “Heys” end before the horns kick in to slows the pace a little and the vocals feel more relaxed and a little more two tone. The vocals are very clear, which is key when the purpose of the song is a discussion. “One Hand always washes the other, so protect your sister and your brother… side by side and shoulder to shoulder, march in to justice for all of our brothers”. As the song goes on we get more gang vocals, call and response, great backing vocals, and a return to more punk influences. This is the perfect intro song for the album. The themes of the song perfectly reinforce the album title, with musical styles to help support the idea, and also introducing you to the reggae, two tone, and punk influences that shape the album.

The second song on the album is titled “Let Go” and feels a little more reggae that the first and is the first song from the album that wasn’t released as a single. Honestly, this track really felt good from the first time I listened to it. The metaphor of pulling weeds and planting seeds, building community, letting go of your past to blossom in the present felt pretty powerful. The production in this album really makes everything pop. It’s easy to fall into the rhythm of every song while still making it easy to focus on the message of every song.

The third track on the album, “Realities” begins with a piano and electric guitar and sounds like it’s going to be a ballad before transitioning to a more familiar reggae song. This track is one of my least favorite songs on the album. It’s not a bad song by any stretch, but it doesn’t jump out with anything exciting, and it debuts right before the strongest three tracks on the entire album, which makes it feel forgettable, but it isn’t something I would outright skip to move ahead.

Speaking of the three strongest tracks, the next song is “Holes”, which was one of the singles prior to the release of the album and the one that probably got the most attention. The simple lyric scheme for “Holes” is straight up punk, easy to sing along to, extremely catchy horn lines, this feels like it was written to be the opening song at a show. You will be moving, you will be singing along, and that is before a quarter if the quick 2 minutes and 17 seconds is dedicated to a guitar solo, and then a really danceable instrumental close to the song. When this song plays live, you will be on your feet and you will be fully engrossed in the performance- and it comes through perfectly on the album.

From here the album slips right into the last of the pre- release singles in “For The Broken”- a two tone anthem that demands unity and action, to come together to fight for the broken, for the children, for the workers. It’s so hard not to absolutely love this song and get hyped every time it plays. Again, the song is lyrically simple, with catchy two tone rhythms, and easy vocals to sing along with and rally around.

But my favorite track on the album is one that wasn’t a single. “Rob From The Rich” just hits different. Everything about this song is different. The intro feels a little weird as it’s counted in and we get some lyrical wordplay with numbers as it introduces concepts and we get a punk sounding song that still keeps true to the Traitors style, but the lyrics often flow with more hip hop influences. The horns accent the song brilliantly, heavy percussion punctuated the song and a simple ska guitar plays under the vocals as we get our first guest vocalist. Lady Hatchet comes in for the third verse and brings more life and excitement to the song with a verse before Coolie Ranx jumps in with the fourth verse before the song breaks out into a Coolie Ranx style raggacore track to close the final verse. Meanwhile, Im still over here echoing the chorus “gonna rob from the rich and give to the poor”. The chorus of voices in this song bring a greater sense of community to the album. It’s one thing to sing about standing together to fight and its another thing to have a community come together to sing about the themes and present a unified front. It feels authentic and wholesome and shares the messages louder than the individual words.

The album carries on for 5 more songs, but the themes and styles have mostly been explored at this point. There are more really good songs on the album to close it out, but by this point we know exactly what we are getting. More two tone, punk, and reggae. The two tracks that are really worth highlighting from the second half of the album are “MLP” and the closing track, “World for Us”.

MLP is a song about Detroit civil rights leader and water access advocate Monica Lewis- Patrick. The vocals in this song are almost spoken word as Navarro starts off “Eleven Days has made them nervous, but one hundred and eleven days will make them afraid. If your policies aren’t connected to your passion or your protest, then we ain’t got a goddamn thing”. The straightforward nature of the spoken word makes this hit hard. Monica Lewis-Patrick was speaking in Detroit on the 11th day of the George Floyd protests. This is not about theory. This was never hypothetical. This is about action. This is the real world. The chorus is sung by the backing vocals, “Don’t back away until you get what you came for- we came for freedom”.

The album closes with another great song. I feel like the first and last song are important on any album. The first song tells me what to expect with an album and the last song feels like it needs to conclude the lesson. It summarizes everything, or emphasizes the most important messages. In this case it does exactly that. It starts with the question, “Is this the world we want for us?” and ends with the statement “You’ve got to stand up, you’ve got to break your chains”. The thesis is complete. Yes the song has great guitar work, some good horn lines. In fact, the entire album does. This album was written to be performed live, and there is a lot of room to play with the guitars in live performances. It is a great album musically- but it felt like a thesis and a call to action and it was delivered expertly. For me, the message is more important than the sound and if I didn’t discuss the music enough, I apologize. You’ll have to grab the album yourself in order to experience that.

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