You may have already heard Roots Tonic. In fact, you may love Roots Tonic and not even know it. Roots Tonic is Hasidic reggae superstar Matisyahu's band. Matisyahu's star has risen dramatically in this past year, culminating in the recent release of Youth on Sony/Epic (currently #4 on Billboard's Top 200) and the certification of Live at Stubbs as a Gold Record. One cannot underestimate the importance of Roots Tonic to Matisyahu's success. Roots Tonic bassist Josh Werner co-writes many of Matisyahu's songs, and Roots Tonic brings those songs to stage, to record and to life, making them pop with the drama and dynamics you'll hear on this album.
It is no coincidence that world class bassist and producer Bill Laswell is involved in this project. For one, it is Laswell who produced Matisyahu's Youth. Laswell, the world music genre-fusing genius, has worked with so many notable artists: Mick Jagger, Afrika Bambaataa, Yoko Ono, Brian Eno, Fela Kuti, John Zorn, Peter Gabriel, George Clinton, Herbie Hancock, Iggy Pop, Laurie Anderson, Motorhead, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sly & Robbie, Swans, Last Poets, and has remixed the work of Santana, Bob Marley & Miles Davis. As one writer puts it, "Bill Laswell is god. Can you prove he's not?" He is a true maverick and a perfect match for Roots Tonic and Matisyahu's blend of reggae, hip hop, soul and traditional Jewish music. Their chemistry was so perfect, in fact, that after the Youth sessions were completed, Laswell invited Roots Tonic back to his Orange Studios to record this album, Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell, which is NOT to be confused with the dub version of Matisyahu's Youth.
With no Matisyahu, Roots Tonic was forced to stand and deliver on an album without vocals or lyrics on which to rely. Deliver they did. With Laswell serving as studio lion Lee "Scratch" Perry to Roots Tonic's Aggravators, Josh, Jonah and Aaron have created a living, breathing disc of instrumental reggae, as funky as, say, the classic "Macka Dub" by the Barrett Brothers (Aston "Family Man" Barrett & Carlton Barrett, The Wailers' rhythm section). The grooves are so loose and lively you can tell they were having a blast recording. At the mixing board, Laswell economically weaves in everything from synth stabs to phone touch tones to unrecognizable sound splatters. He stays out of the way of the bass, and heaps echo on the drums and guitar, allowing the high end to spiral out from the music.
Dub as a genre always seems to be making a comeback. Its influence is consistently heard in other forms of music from Radiohead to Missy Elliot. But, judging by the surge of interest in and activity by bands like Heavyweight Dub Champion, Goathead, Dub Nomads, LA's Future Pigeon, to the reunited Systemwide, to Roots Tonic labelmates Dub Trio, Dr Israel and 10 Ft Ganja Plant, American Dub is currently very fertile musical ground. This spring, expect Roots Tonic's popularity to bloom with the release of this album, plus live Matisyahu and solo dates. There is even talk of Roots Tonic opening for Matisyahu.
Roots Tonic: Josh Werner - Bass & Keyboards, Aaron Dugan - Guitar & Sounds,
Jonah David - Drums & Percussion
Produced by Bill Laswell at Orange Music Sound Studios, West Orange, NJ