Dafrico enjoys healthy diet of music and politics

Music

Ray Dafrico (say “Africa” with a frickin’ “o” at the end) recently released Tunnel Visions, a 9-song disc recorded in New York City.  It’s a follow-up to his last release Solo Au Go Go, which was recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where greats such as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and many others cut early tracks.  He’s been playing and writing music professionally since he was 17, and although he doesn’t have as much time to devote it as before, he is in it for the long haul.  As founding member of Atlanta bands, the Nightporters, Kathleen Turner Overdrive, and the Ray City Rollers, Dafrico is well known in the local music scene.

Dafrico credits Keith Richards as his main influence, inspiration, and mentor.  “I have many influences.  Pete Townshend, Bob Dylan, the Kinks, The Clash, and Tom Petty are probably at the top of the list, but Keith is the guy that gives me strength.  He’s like a scrappy fighter with a big heart.  When he plays guitar, to me, that is what a guitar should sound like.  I’ve had the chance to spend some time with him and Ronnie Wood and they did not disappoint!”

Tunnel Visions is full of raw, guitar-driven rock – and plenty of great melodies.  Born in Queens, Dafrico has the swagger and attitude of a younger Richards, with a dash of Paul Westerberg thrown in for good measure.  The album kicks off with “Give it a Try,” fueled by a T-Rex-ish guitar punch.  The wonderful “Rejected” has Dafrico dueting with former Pogues member Cáit O’Riordan.  It’s a total singalong tune.  O’Riordan also chimes in on “Child of the Moon.”

“The new release has received a lot of good press and airplay especially in Europe,” Dafrico says.  “I have plans to do some short tours sometime in the near future but have been busy with my political activism, which I feel is a priority at the moment.  Music is great, but the music ‘business’ can leave you a little unfulfilled at the end of the day. When you are helping fix problems that have long been neglected and really affect people’s lives, it is a really great feeling, like you’re actually doing something to help society.  Music can do that to a certain extent but it’s a completely different monster.”

Politics

Dafrico has become extremely involved in Georgia politics.  “I’m sitting here watching the first day of hearings for the Kavanagh Supreme court nomination and it’s making me sick.  I’ve been involved in protests since before Trump got elected and will do anything I can to fight those turning our country away from democracy and into a dictatorship.  I have actively been helping many candidates right here in Georgia, Stacey Abrams, Christine Triebsch, Karín Sandiford, Luisa Wakeman, Cindy Zeldin, and Rachael Kinsey, to name a few.  I make videos, canvass, donate, send texts, make calls, and attend protests.  I believe we can turn Georgia blue this November.

“I know we have the votes, it’s just a matter of getting people to the polls.  We are fighting (gubernatorial candidate) Brian Kemp’s efforts to purge and suppress voters.  I have been very active in the push for paper ballots for the upcoming midterms and it looks like the federal court may rule on that very soon.  Kemp had tried to get it dismissed but the judge ruled against him, so there is hope!”  Dafrico co-founded the Facebook page A Chance for Georgia, focusing on voter registration, paper ballots, election security, and candidate support.

Dafrico will soon be back out playing live music and recording new material.  To hear or buy Tunnel Visions, visit his website, CD Baby, AmazoniTunes, and wherever good rock is found.  Catch him live when you can and register to vote!

Ray color

The English Beat reawaken with impressive new album

See the source imageFor fans of the ska / new wave / punk / reggae collective The English Beat, it’s been a 36 year drought since the last studio album. The Birmingham, England lads introduced themselves to the world releasing three excellent albums – I Just Can’t Stop It (1980), Wha’ppen? (1981), and Special Beat Service (1982). They disbanded soon after, but leaders Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger quickly formed General Public and enjoyed further success with the song “Tenderness.” Andy Cox and David Steele recruited singer Roland Gift to form Fine Young Cannibals, and hit the charts with “She Drives Me Crazy.” While Wakeling’s version of the Beat is currently on the road, Roger has also been touring with his own variant and released Bounce in 2016

Wakeling, however, seems to have the more recognizable voice, and Here We Go Love! showcases that unique talent, along with fresh songwriting and a very tight band. Sadly, Saxa (Lionel Martin) passed in 2017 at the age of 87, but left some sax music behind, which was rolled into the new mix of songs. The album kicks off with a raucous and joyful “How Can You Stand There?” sounding as if Wakeling hasn’t skipped a beat since the eighties. In “If Killing Worked,” he sings, “Turn on your TV, see what they’ve done? / they’ve made our culture look like a setting sun / but we’re better than that because we know how / if killing worked it would have worked by now.” Interpreting these lyrics could lead down many paths, but most likely the song references war, guns, and/or the death penalty.

Politics and love continue to be the band’s topical mainstays (see “Stand Down Margaret” from Just Can’t Stop), and Wakeling refuses to shy away from opining on America’s current president in “The One and The Only.” Adjectives used are weak, stupid, and arrogant, going so far as comparing him to Mick the Miller, a famous greyhound race dog from 1930’s Ireland. In the slow-burner “Never Die,” Wakeling sings of the loss of close friends to HIV/AIDS in the eighties as well as his own son’s near-death experience in an auto accident. “Dem Call it Ska” jumps into rocksteady and reggae beats, while “The Love You Give” dips into poppy love song territory.

The absence of “toasting” by Ranking Roger has definitely left a void in the English Beat sound, but that gap is nearly unnoticeable due to the excellence of this new release. With a new generation of fans, the English Beat are hoping to multiply those numbers with this set of 13 new tunes. After touring on the popularity of an impressive back catalog, the Beat now have a fourth album, which will undoubtedly join the first three as a classic. For information on Here We Go Love! and the tour, visit The English Beat.

The Head explore ‘Space’ with astronomical results

New Release: The Head, Space (DollarShade Records)

The Head has a new album called Space, and you’re gonna need to hear it. The high-energy Atlanta power-pop trio has come a long way since their teenage years and the debut of Puckered back in 2009. This is a dynamic live band who have recorded what must be the culminating achievement of their career (so far).

Produced by Tanner Hendon and Wyatt Oates of Atlanta’s Madison Studios, Space underscores what The Head is all about: thoughtful and intelligent lyrics, the upgraded and searing guitar of Jacob Morrell, the rabid heartbeat of the band, drummer Jack Shaw and bassist extraordinaire Mike Shaw, whose lead vocals have been amped up to 11 on the new release. It’s tough to talk about the highlights on Space, as nearly every song is a potential hit (whatever that means in the 21st century).

“Delusion” kicks it off in high gear and there’s not much slowing down after that. The band’s long-running affinity for certain groups from the 80s and (mostly) 90s shows through here, with such influences as Ride, Spiritualized, Stone Roses and early R.E.M. “Tea Colored Radio” begins with a Cultish guitar intro that quickly turns into a soaring gem of a tune. Space is full of your new favorite song…just pick one. “Impossible,” “Zoey” and “Lilies” with a nice little love song, “You,” in between keep the middle of the album on point.

Potential greatness lies in track 10. “I Wanna Be Loved” hits on all 12 cylinders, with hints of some of those aforementioned Brit bands. A smart and powerful song. Short of discussing every song on this illustrious 13-track LP, just buy the damn thing. You’ll be investing in a great rock band.

Space is officially released August 4 and available on iTunes and Spotify, with vinyl and CDs for sale at shows and at The Head. The band is setting off on a 39-plus city tour, covering most of America and including their first trip out west and to the United Kingdom. See them live soon!