The Breadwinners - By the Sweat of Your Brow

The Breadwinners – By the Sweat of Your Brow LP

My first taste of The Breadwinners was on the ‘Far as I Can See’ 12 I recently picked up from the Horus Label. This haunting dub reeled me in on first listen and like some kind of vinyl drug, it left me wanting more Breadwinners. Luckily for us vinyl junkies, and rather beautifully timed, The Breadwinners new long player ‘By the Sweat of Your Brow’ is due for release later this month.

Main man Al Breadwinner is based in Manchester at his Bakery Studio and his musical ethos is to record live if possible, on old authentic equipment. This desire to produce ‘real’ sounding tracks that hark back to the 70s Jamaican studios is reflected in this new release, which will be available only as an analogue LP.

I think once you hear the analogue production on the album, it will convince you that the vinyl only release was a good move. Hearing Big Youth’s vocal on first track ‘Eat Bread’ feels so right on vinyl. For me this is one of the most exciting releases for quite a while, the excellent song writing coupled with great musicians and vocalists, serve up a set with no weak tracks.

Eat Bread

The album kicks off with the Big Youth track ‘Eat Bread’, the heavy relentless bassline provides a canvas for the big man to toast a homage to Al and Manchester. This first track is a perfect introduction to Al’s production, close your eyes and its Studio One 1974. Track two, ‘Valley Chant’ continues in a similar vein, a slow dub jam, effects heavy keyboards, but again with a very distinctive vocal, Cristiano Jahvoice takes on toasting duties. In fact the choice of singers for each track is perfect and helps to give the set variety.

Baltimore

‘Baltimore’ is a big highlight, it is a beautiful but tragic song which features another great bassline and I guarantee that the line ‘Oh Baltimore ain’t it hard just to live’ will reverberate in your head. Originally performed by Randy Newman and covered by Nina Simone and The Tamlins amongst others, this is a particularly soulful version. Listening to it in 2015 the lyrics seem to be a lament to the killing of Freddie Gray earlier this year by Baltimore police and the ensuing riots. But jump back to 1968 and today’s events mirror a similar chapter in this turbulent city’s history, with the riots following Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination.

Binghiman a Run Come

My favourite track by far is ‘Binghiman a Run Come’. I love the MLK vocals, they are very distinctive, quite soft but also very powerful. I haven’t managed to get this tune out of my head! The catchy melody and some intelligent lyrics makes for a fantastic track. Full MLK album please Al? ‘Thanks and Praise’ is another one to jump out of the set, it has an industrial feel, a clang of sounds, a rough feel that matches City Culture’s voice.

I have only touched the surface of this album in this review, there is so much more I will leave you to discover. It is a lovely piece of work, put together with a great appreciation of reggae’s heritage and a devotion to the original recording techniques. It is a must buy and can be bought directly from Al Breadwinner at thebakerystudio@aol.co.uk . Please buy direct if you can as it means more proceeds go directly to the artists and producers.

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