Lion Heights: “Cool & Easy”

Here in the Lone Star State, the authentic “tropical” experience is pretty much limited to South Padre Island, about a six-hour drive from our city limits. But despite Austin’s central location, when it comes to less land-locked sounds (chiefly reggae), we’re actually pretty lucky to have strong local institutions; The Flamingo Cantina’s remained a major draw for fans of the genre since 1991, Austin Reggae Fest since 1994, and in terms of adjacent interests, we also have a relatively lenient (okay, decriminalized) herbal culture compared to our more conservative county neighbors. So it’s not a big shock that reggae acts like Lion Heights claim Austin as their creative den, especially considering their incorporation of “outlaw” (a term typically associated with Texas country rebels like Willie and Waylon) into an otherwise-idiosyncratic Caribbean style. A decade back Lion Heights crawled out as a cub with their debut EP Survival of the Richest, but really roared with higher production value and a vast cast of collaborators on 2021’s Blank Check Riddim. And with the release of the extensive 46-minute False Reality this past April, Lion Heights has clearly worked their way up the food chain to become one of Austin’s finest reggae ensembles. But what’s the point of making it to the top if you’re just gonna ride recent accomplishments? On that note, Lion Heights dropped their eight-track Not Done Fighting Riddim last Friday, a feature-filled pride that showcases Lutan Fyah, Chuck Fenda, Alan Moe Monsarrat, and more. Sure there are some explicit sensi-bilities with opening titles like “Herbsman” and “Love Marijuana”, but by and large this new record (true to its title) champions fist-in-the-air civil disobedience and resilience in our modern era of working class oppression. And fun fact: Lion Heights shakes off their regular crepuscular schedule for an afternoon show 3PM this Sunday at The Far Out Lounge ahead of a regional Texas-Florida tour later this month. Even if the triple digits in the forecast convince you to stay home, you can still counter our painfully noticeable lack of coastal breezes with a tune that instills a chill you just can’t kill, “Cool & Easy”. From its introductory timbale fill and guitar skank to its final full-band chord, “Cool & Easy” (featuring duo Roots Revealers) is like a coconut cocktail you can take anywhere with you; to work, to your home stereo, and of course…if you’re willin’…to the beach.

Caravan Strange: “Samra”

SXSW attracts musical acts and fans alike from all over. As a result, curated regional/national showcases usually get a pretty big draw, usually with at least a handful of locals in attendance. Yet beyond that week-long whirlwind of global sounds, us Austinites can easily take our year-round resident international acts for granted. Sure, we’ve got our fair of “world music” groups, but their Central Texas “twist” typically appropriates the most exotic-sounding bits without representing the full cultural context. And sadly, outside of treasures like Flamingo Cantina and Sahara Lounge, these whitewashed pastiches often overshadow their more-authentic counterparts in terms of streaming numbers and live opportunities. Amid the more recent roster of “genuine” Austin world acts? Caravan Strange. This fresh-faced four-piece was co-founded by Cairo-raised guitarist-composer Moe Diab, whose Egyptian upbringing invites all kinds of North African sounds into the quartet’s bilingual, cross-continental formulas. Caravan Strange’s wacky cavalcade began in early 2021 with a real reggae banger that sets itself apart with prominent ethnic percussion and amazing Arabic scale melodies. And after a brief break, this odd convoy continues towards Bazaar Bizarre, the homophonic umbrella that several new tunes have been huddling under since April. Bazaar Bizarre‘s officially at five tracks now, each as nuanced as its predecessor. So start working your way back through Caravan Strange’s wagon train with the latest of two singles that dropped last week. Sporting some sweet Middle-Eastern-inspired MIDI tones, prolific instrumental riffs, and infectious call-and-response vocals, “Samra” also spoils us with some Walter Becker-esque guitar, almost like Steely Dan stepped into Caravan Strange’s oasis for the final thirty seconds.

Dog Beach Rebels: “Company”

It’s post-election Wednesday, and after the extremely close results of our gubernatorial race, there are a lot of folks feeling their fur mussed up to say the least. But no matter who’s at the top of Texas politics, at least for right now, Austin is still the Live Music Capital first and foremost. So if you’re itchin’ for a reggae-alt-rock escape right here in the city limits…pile in, pooches; Dog Beach Rebels will be tossing us all a post-election bone this weekend!

With nearly five (human) years under their collar, Dog Beach Rebels’ breed of all-things reggae has only become more brindled. Whether it’s with ska, jam, rocksteady, psych, dub, or straight up roots, Dog Beach Rebels proudly struts it all like the multi-genre mutt they are. This Saturday they’ll be dropping their sophomore studio EP Just Enough, with a release show 9PM Friday night at Flamingo Cantina. So become DBR’s latest fan right now with the previously-unheard EP opener off Just Enough, whose steady skank and spacious arrangement will make you want to stay in close “Company”.

Frederico7 “Missing My Children”

We might’ve just kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month, but that doesn’t mean we should overlook Spanish’s distant cousin, Portuguese, and subsequently the music of Brazil. Enter Frederico7, the Austin-based Brazilian soul-rocker who first captivated the Live Music Capital with a Latin-leaning vatapá of South American sounds on his 2019 debut LP Exótico Americano.

Frederico7 brings o calor to the stage tomorrow night at Far Out Lounge for South Americano Fest, celebrating two new singles that dropped this morning, which are both produced and engineered by the legendary Beto Martinez and tease an upcoming all-English album for 2022. If you’re feeling more of an ’80s-pop vibe, you might want to check out “Truth is Power” first, but if you’re like me and enjoy combating the sun with some sweltering dub reggae, you’re gonna want to blast “Missing My Children”!

Jah Sun & The Rising Tide: “Rock Paper Scissors”

With summer entering full swing and live music quickly trickling back, seasons are certainly changing. And all the earthly elements seem to be pointing the same way, Jah Sun & The Rising Tide. This California-bred reggae project has been surfing through the states in promotion of their upcoming album Running Through Walls, wrapping up a month-long leg that launched in late May this weekend in Texas.

Jah Sun & The Rising Tide brings their polished Caribbean sound to Empire Control Room this Wednesday along with Massachusetts’ Mighty Mystic, drops another new single from Running Through Walls on Friday, and makes your Monday a lot brighter with their latest song and video, “Rock Paper Scissors“.

Dog Beach Rebels: “Numbers”

Whether or not you wonder why reggae fetches more radio time every April 20th, it always seems like a good fit. So what better time to call up Austin four-piece Dog Beach Rebels, who, despite their scruffy handle, has written far from wet fur and has risen up in the ranks of reggae-rock since their debut EP last year.

The quartet’s got a couple new singles and a live album for 2021 (including “Lawman’s Daughter”, slated for late May), but given the numeric fascination behind this particular Tuesday, paired with DBR’s penultimate residency performance tonight at One-2-One Bar (9-11pm), it’s a perfect opportunity to premiere “Numbers”!

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Jamaica’s Raging Fyah plays reggae music that is as rooted in tradition as it is in positivity. Listen as keyboardist Demar Gayle describes how Bob Marley’s “One Love” changed his life, and explains why it took traveling to a different continent and experiencing race based hate for the first time to actually understand the lyrics of the song.

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