Now Then
Jeb Loy Nichols
September 29, 2005

Track list
  1. Sometimes Shooting Stars
  2. Really Together
  3. Lelah Mae
  4. Painted My Dream House Blue
  5. Bad Fruit
  6. Let's Make It Up
  7. Morning Love
  8. Black Water Road
  9. Don't Dance with Me
  10. Ever Feel Like Leaving
  11. When Did You Stop Loving Me
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 3 Production : 3 Sound quality : 3 Sleeve : 3
Reggae has always relied on the 'shock of the new' to forward its agenda -- all of reggae's diverse experiments, from the surreality of Rockers to the darkness of early Radics dancehall styles and onwards to the innovations of ONU Sound, The Disciples and Xterminator have kept roots music moving forward with inspiration and unbridled enthusiasm.

This momentum drove reggae onwards to higher heights of new inspiration until the late 90's -- but since then it seems to have trudged and stumbled to a halt, mired in cliché and cynicism. Besides the odd inspired exception and some excellent re-issues, what do we really have now in 2005 that can genuinely be said to match earlier trajectories of inspiration? The ongoing release of increasingly clichéd roots albums and the crassness and simplicity of bashment hardly challenges earlier manifestations and mutations within the reggae genre.

Arguably then -- it's time reggae had a jolt. Just as classic jazz labels like Blue Note reached out for new sounds and influences to keep jazz relevant, vital and alive in the early 90's with artists like John Schofield, Marissa Monte, Steve Turre, Randy Weston and Cassandra Wilson -- maybe reggae should be looking for new blood and new edges of influence too.

Jeb Loy's album doesn't pretend to be particularly innovative, and it certainly does not provide the jolt to reggae referred to in earlier paragraphs -- but at least it attempts to try reggae influences within another genre which has to be praiseworthy -- And at his best, Jeb Loy achieves a fine fusion of diverse forms. This album is produced in part by Dennis Bovell, and features one of the African Head Charge bass players and The Royals' Roy Cousins on backing vocals.

This isn't particularly groundbreaking stuff, neither is it Jeb's best -- but it's a fine album, which will appeal to ONU completists, and those reggae fans who enjoy Joe Higgs, Bob Andy and Maytals' Cajun influenced styles.

Top marks go to Jeb for trying to do something different within a reggae format. His music is well worth checking out for those who enjoy his distinctive country / Cajun vibe. Best tracks here are the lonely darkness and disappointment of "Painted My Dream House Blue" and the scepticism of "Bad Fruit." Jeb has a beautiful voice and expresses himself through clearly heartfelt personal narratives.

To his growing band of listeners, Jeb Loy is proving to be one of the most interesting newcomers of the past two years -- It's no surprise that major Jeb Loy fans include The Slits, Adrian Sherwood and Pete Holdsworth. He is a very good artist too, and is responsible for the majority of the Pressure Sounds sleeve designs.