There is nothing humbler and calming for any musician to pick up an instrument or use their voice in their yard. A back garden will do, even a veranda. Yard in Jamaica means home. ‘Back a Yard’ the famous song by The In Crowd always brings a smile to people’s faces when heard in a dance. ‘Inna Yard’ as a concept has been around for a while musically. It the acoustic remedy to all the autotune drivel churned out of studios worldwide. We have so many plugins and gadgets at our disposal that it has become like junk food, and the dependency on them for everything is in so many ways killing the soul of all kinds of music the globe over. Reggae will always go back to the roots because it was founded in the roots, in the yards of Jamaica. In that sense it’s a music with remedies and alternatives on the liberation from the evil wickedness and brainless addictions and consumerisms of Babylon. Remember those opening scenes from the movie ‘Rockers’ where Leroy Horsemouth Wallace goes on a hustle mission to check his musical bredrens for some unpaid drum sessions. Each yard he goes into there’s another group rehearsing. Music played out in the open air always has a different ambience and I can imagine so many sessions being rehearsed over and over, to perfection by Jamaican creators over the decades. Jamaica has something special when it comes to music. It is the home of Reggae. There is also something spiritual there, it’s the ‘acoustic’ from streams flowing by the window to those tree frog orchestras and booming bass-lines from people’s yards, speakers big, small and larger. So with these thoughts in mind I listened to a few of my favourite foundation artists singing and playing on ‘Inna De Yard’, an LP released a few weeks ago. Kiddus I opens the set. He is the spiritual leader of the Inna De Yard troupe based in Stony Hill, just outside Kingston, Jamaica, and he moves mountain ranges with this simple plea for love. Kiddus I is such an understated artist yet his contribution to Reggae as a vocalist is so substantial because he has kept the flame burning with many other foundation artists for the last few decades. Remember that one scene in ‘Rockers’ where he is recording ‘Graduation in Zion’ in one take. No edits, no frills, just total performance on the mic. He always gives that completeness to his vocals and this version of ‘If You Love Me’ – it was originally by Edith Piaf so its roots meets chanson – should be on every couple’s future wedding playlist. Absolute spine chilling magic.
There are many songs as well that are more familiar as hits in their own right. I never thought for instance that Ken Boothe could sing ‘Everything I Own’ in this acoustic ‘yard’ manner without me thinking “no Ken, it can’t touch the original”, but some 45 years later after its release, you think yes Ken, respect, and still going strong at 70! Horace Andy is also here. He just feels like he is vibezing, in his charismatic vocal manner on the Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ and it’s just that feeling, that makes him such a special artist on the mic. Judy Mowatt also teams up with Jah9 for a rendition of ‘Black Woman’ reflecting the cross-generational power of roots Reggae music and the timelessness of the song with its chorus line that you won’t get out of your head for a few days. Inna De Yard will be playing L’Olympia in Paris on June 15th and various dates around Europe. The only rating I can give this release is all the stars in the sky…. One Love