Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Inna De Yard

The complete discography of Jamaican guitarist Earl "Chinna" Smith runs into the hundreds. Along with Ernest Ranglin, he is the reggae session guitarist. His name lends an album instant credibility, so it's no wonder that he's not short of work. A few years back, Smith initiated the Inna De Yard series, an unplugged approach pairing him with various reggae acts. The releases are first takes with Smith on acoustic guitar, Kiddus I and Jah Soul playing nyabinghi percussion, and his collaborating act on vocals. My brother Bob alerted me to the Inna De Yard release featuring The Mighty Diamonds. Bob's reggae recommendations are money in the bank, so I downloaded this release with no trepidation whatsoever.

The Mighty Diamonds are the Jamaican version of The Temptations or The Four Tops. Not only are their harmonies are stunning, they edge nearly as close to American soul at Toots Hibbert. I was lucky enough to see them a few years back -- okay, many years back -- at Austin's late and deservedly lamented Liberty Lunch. They not only hit every note effortlessly, they did it in the context of synchronized dance moves. The unplugged format highlights their vocal style perfectly -- in fact, after listening to Inna De Yard, I wouldn't mind hearing an a capella release.

They start off with the great "Country Living" and proceed through nine more numbers from their catalog. "Have Mercy" is stunningly beautiful. Like Leonard Cohen's "If It Be Your Will," it evokes a common spirituality that anyone can identify with, regardless of whether you're a believer or not. Smith's pensive guitar and the insistent drumming team with ethereal harmonies to give "Go Seek Your Rights" a regal momentum that left me stunned. The other seven tracks impart a similar back yard ambience that makes you feel as if you're there with them. Highly recommended...

The August 2007 U. S. Census Bureau report Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2006 reveals the following:
  • Although the median real income rose from 2005, it remains below its 1999 peak;
  • The female-to-male earnings ratio is 77%;
  • After a steady decline in the Nineties, the poverty rate is 12.3% (that's 36.5 million flesh-and-blood people);
  • The poverty rate in the United States was over 20% in 1960. Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs helped cut it in half -- the steepest decline of any decade since;
  • Poverty among the lazy, dependent poor is greatest among those under 18: A whopping 17.4% of our children live in penury;
  • 47 million Americans do not have health insurance, the greatest number ever. The 15.8% uninsured rate is also the highest ever. So much for the power of the free market.
Any guesses as to what news another year of the Bush economy will bring?  Any guesses as to where the policies of John "I don't 'really understand economics'" McCain would lead? This much is certain: If Phil Gramm runs the show for him, it will be a mighty cold time for the elderly...

BTW, as difficult as distinction as this is to attain, has there been a more cynically hypocritical politician than Phil Gramm? Despite being born into a military family, educated on ROTC scholarships, teaching at a public university, and drawing a salary as an elected official in exchange for years of slavishly carrying water for corporate interests, Gramm's name is synonymous with ruthless cuts in federal spending and social services. (It's also synonymous with deregulating the mortgage business, which has worked out so well for all concerned.) Of course, one could argue that once Gramm finished gorging himself he had personally sucked the public teat dry anyway. Well, I'm probably being unfair to the man of whom Molly Ivins wrote "Even his friends don't like him." After, he did make invest in the lucrative private sector world of pornographic films. I'd make a snide comment about the Republican commitment to family values here if the animal rights part of me didn't object so strongly to shooting fish in a barrel...

The peerless harmonies of  The Mighty Diamonds:


PWally said...

Oh great! Phil Gramm can replace Dick Cheney....and the list of political morons will continue on.

Foxessa said...

Mean people make me deeply angry, and deeply depressed. McCain and all that ilk are mean. They are bullies and sadists too.

Love, C.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

yuck phil gramm .... yet another slimy heartless sleaze - how do these guys keep moving up in politics...oh right politics, what is that that mark twain said???

thank goodness the mighty diamonds are pushing out nasty thoughts....