"An American reggae institution" is how magazine CMJ describes John Brown's Body, and the words are telling. Too many North American outfits bent on channeling the national music of Jamaica end up sounding like some seriously compromised hybrid of the island's skank and soul with Yankee pop tendencies. The primitive power of reggae is compromised, clearly, whenever too much attention is paid to the "verse-chorus-verse-chorus" framework.
Led by vocalist/guitarist Kevin Kinsella, John Brown's Body goes directly to the heart of reggae and brings back the brass ring, which it then beats into shape courtesy of a 10-piece ensemble sound capable of digging deep into the gluey grooves and adding the touches of social and political discourse that have always marked the most serious entries in the reggae canon. The result? A modern take on reggae that will urge you to, as Pete Townshend said, "dance while your knowledge is growing."
John Brown's Body celebrates the release of a new EP, which features three new tracks from the band's forthcoming full-length effort, at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Tralf, 622 Main St. All ages will be admitted. Tickets are available for $12 through Ticketmaster. Admission at the door will run you $14.50 on the night of the show.