November 2017 Update
It’s over a year down the line since I wrote this piece and the rather excellent Hudson Soul is available (sort of) on vinyl. Jim is using a site called ‘I Want My Vinyl’ (a crowdfunding site for music) to help raise the funds for its release. Orders for 100 albums trigger the pressing, so if you like what you hear please consider having a look at his page and ordering one. In this fractured modern society, I like the fact that you can get together with fellow music lovers and contribute as a community, to get music released. It does give you a warm fuzzy feeling…!
Jim the Boss – Hudson Soul
Boom One Records, Digital Download & LP
Contemporary reggae producers often cite the word ‘authentic’ when describing their latest releases. I think it is commendable that they want to re-create the sounds and feel that made reggae so popular in the first place. Whether you are mirroring the vibes of a particular period or creating new and modern takes on reggae, the fact that so much new material is coming out is fantastic and testament to the enduring importance of reggae.
This collection called Hudson Soul from Jim the Boss, aka Jim Monaghan released on Boom One Records is as authentic as you can get. Jim and his fellow musicians, bassist Steve Capecci and drummers Patrick Meyer and Mike Torres (and a host of other musicians) care very deeply about what they call their Hudson Soul sound. This sound which they have developed in their Hoboken Hi-Fi studio is best summed up by this statement on their website. ‘We approach the music from an ‘old-fashioned’ way of thought, minimal microphone techniques, utilizing simple effects such as tape delay, spring reverb and equalization sweeps and monophonic masters.’ Once you listen to the album, you will I am sure agree that the sound they have created would not have been out of place in 70s Kingston.
Wanting to dig deeper into my new favourite album, I caught up with Jim to find out a little more about the sound, his influences and the background to the album. I started by asking Jim what got him into reggae and which artists and producers influenced him. “I never was a fan of reggae in my early years. I love many genres of music but I only discover things when my mind is ‘ready’. Then when it is, it’s a rabbit hole. I want to soak it all up. In 2008 I moved to Florida and I met some Jamaican kids. They took me to this club that was spinning early 70s reggae and I was hooked from then on!”
With this influence on his early reggae tastes and noting that people have remarked on his music sounding like it was recorded in the 70s, I asked Jim whether the ‘authentic’ sound was important and did he have a desire to stay true to the roots of reggae? Jim replied, “It really comes from myself and Steve Capecci working day in and day out in the studio trying to come up with the most clear, concise and pleasing tones at the tracking stage. To us, it just sounds like the culmination of all of our experiments. To others it sounds like the 70s. I’m happy that people have identified with it in a way that is familiar to them. It’s interesting because it was not intentional.”
When you listen to a track like the cosmic ‘In My Soul’ you can’t help feeling that this is as good as a dub can get. The track is driven with a simple bass line with vocals and sounds drifting in and out. In the best traditions of dub albums, the word ‘sparse’ jumps to mind when I listen to Hudson Soul. The music and even the track names are minimal, I asked Jim whether this was intentional and a homage to some of the great dub producers?
“I liked that some dub makers of the day would title the songs by picking a line that stuck out to them. That’s kind of what I did on this record. As far as the music, I wanted to stick with a theme, showcase the delay and let the bass and drums drive everything.”
My favourite track on Hudson Soul is the swaying ‘Spectro-Chrome’, another beautiful dub which again has a minimal feel, but like all the tracks on this album there is enough detail to keep the track interesting. I asked Jim for some background. “Spectro Chrome is a dub of Cure and Cure which was the first single that Kiwi, Vic Rice and I worked on together. It was the first song that I dubbed for this album. It set the tone of what songs I’d include.”
To finish off the interview I asked Jim where did the name Hudson Soul come from? Jim replied “A fan emailed us and read an interview that said our sound was very 1970s. The fan wrote “It’s the Hudson soul sound” and I thought that was a killer name. I said, when we move the location of the studio I want to call it that. But we ended up just calling the music that.” One final question which I like to ask everyone, as I think it helps understand how people approach their work. Give me three reggae albums you couldn’t live without? Jim switched this around and helpfully provided Freddie McKay – Picture of the Wall, The Techniques Allstars – 357 Magnum Dub and The Uniques – Absolutely The Uniques as three albums that heavily influenced him. You can certainly hear the influences on Hudson Soul, all three albums feature that laid back groove that typifies the Hudson Soul sound.
Nuggets of reggae history
Knowing the type of people who read this blog I am sure you will be blown away by this collection. All nine tracks are beautifully crafted nuggets of reggae history, each put together with so much care, attention and love. With people like Jim and his peers producing quality music like this, we shall never be short of new and exciting material.
Details of where you can get Hudson Soul and some sound samples can be found here. One final note of sadness, 100% of the proceeds from this album were originally going to Dan Klein of The Frightnrs to help with his treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Unfortunately Dan suddenly passed away, so all monies will instead go to his parents. RIP Dan from all at Reggae Roots Review.
Please share this interview via Facebook and Twitter, as this album deserves to be widely heard. If there is enough interest it might even persuade Jim to do a vinyl release. Bless, Paper Lion