Rich In A Troubled Time
Off Beat Magazine
New Orleans, Louisiana
The Steel Pan drums of Trinidad Tobago have rarely, if ever, been associated with New Orleans music-until recently Steel Pan drummer vocalist Gregory Boyd, a hidden pearl in the Crescent City Scene, has devoted himself to this unique instrument with its sweet, resonate sound rich in percussive possibilities.
With various groups including Charmaine Neville, Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen. Chief Smiley Ricks and the Indians of the Nation and others, (Cyril Neville, Charles Neville, Michael Ray, Dr John) he’s gratifyingly integrated steel pan into Jazz, Soul and New Orleans funk and in the process he’s highlighted New Orleans’ own Afro Caribbean connections.
He’s also emerged as a leader in the last few years and this CD is the first to showcase him as a front man playing pan singing and scatting on his own compositions. An intentionally raw low-fi session it was recorded live to two track at a gig in Austin, Texas creating an almost Garage Rock atmosphere in which Boyd and his cohorts bassist Edwin Livingston of Los Hombres Calientes, drummer Steve Schwelling and percussionist Heart Stearns-emphasize passion over precision. It is really more of a live demo than a complete album but the CD manages to cover a lot of ground with only six tracks. Primarily lyric driven rockers “Common Ground” and “Message To A Friend” and the high energy Caribbean Funk anthem “Is The Pan In The Mix?” are balanced with the more mellow soul excursion “Good Nature” (spiced with a fluid rap scat and a pan solo that would make Tito Puente envious) and “Rajah”, an adventurous jazz instrumental allowing the players to stretch out their chops over hip hop beats, Livingston’s hypnotic bass lines and eerie percussive moans.
A surprisingly adept lyricist, Boyd crafts songs that are catchy while resisting clichés. He often sings with the torn and frayed urgency of a soul influenced modern rocker and occasionally this sounds strained, but on the poignant love ballad “Rich In A Troubled Time”-by far the most striking track, he sings with an understated, soul bearing immediacy, his lilt suggesting the more tender efforts of Peter Tosh and Ben Harper.
Overall the disc serves as a glimpse albeit somewhat raw and incomplete, of a powerful emerging talent, promising good things to come from Boyd and his pans.
New Orleans, Louisiana
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