I was having an after-dinner conversation with a friend and catching up on the day’s events when I mentioned that I was having a hard time connecting with so much of the new music that is currently populating my playlist. Almost as soon as the words slipped out of my mouth, I quickly added a verbal asterisk that I was loving every single note and lyric from Jason Isbell, and the wire and wood virtuosity of the Milk Carton Kids is inspirational. I’ve already anointed John Moreland’s High on Tulsa Heat as my favorite album of the year — early but accurately – and given nods of joy to Calexico, Sufjan Stevens, and the couplings of Pharis & Jason Romero and Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield.
But still, I’m missing something and I’m not sure why or what it could be. Albums by singer-songwriters that I used to anticipate and curl up with aren’t ringing my bells. Old favorites and newly minted bands I once couldn’t wait to hear sounded fresh on the first pass, yet boring by round two. Now I might be suffering from a boogie woogie flu because when I’m driving down the road and a track pops up from The Okeh Blues Story 1949-1957 collection, my toes start to tap and my heart skips a beat. The Complete King Recordings of Wade Manier makes me pull my banjo off the wall for some two-finger pickin’, and if you haven’t lately listened to the Cotton Top Mountain Sanctified Singers or Da Costa Woltz’s Southern Broadcasters or Fruit Jar Guzzlers, run out now and get yourself Yazoo’s Times Ain’t What They Used to Be.
Last week, I tried to get my mojo back by pulling the plug on my virtual juke (i)box and twirling the dial up and down the FM band looking for inspiration. Of course “twirl” is a euphemism for pressing buttons on a digital readout, and “inspiration” was perhaps too much to hope for. But with millions of people from every nook and cranny in this whole wide world living in the city of New York, I knew I’d find something to whet the whistle.
What I found was a small station broadcasting from New Rochelle, a suburb not far from Queens and the Bronx. It caught my ear with Caribbean music, blasting in a style that blended old school rhythm and blues, a reggae back beat, hip-hop, dancehall, and toasting. Weird electronic sounds, songs shifting effortlessly in and out of each other, and a steady commentary in a thick Jamaican accent that made it impossible to know if it was part of the music, an informercial, or a news flash. I think it might have been all three.
WVIP-FM is owned by David ‘Squeeze’ Annakie’s Linkup Media Group, and some of the other businesses they own and advertise almost continually on the station include JAMROCK Magazine, Saige Skin Care, SqueezeCard, AAA Service Protection, BioLife Energy Systems Solutions, Vitaways, Value Health Network, USA Credit Repair, Fiction (a Jamaican club), and Immigration Link. Squeeze takes to the air himself and promotes like Reverend Ike on speed. And, as a special bonus to the island music (between all the ads), there is the option for anybody to buy a 30-minute block of time for their own show. I’m considering it.
While my reggae vocabulary mostly consists of Bob Marley and that “Bad Boy” theme song from COPS, I have to tell you that whatever the hell this station is playing, I want more of it. Although not Americana nor alt-anything I know about, it’s roots music of the stems and seeds variety. Ain’t no such thing as wrong music.
This was originally published by No Depression, as an Easy Ed’s Broadside column.