Noble Sound System EP
by Paul Whyte
It seems weird that winter is finally here after thinking about the summer I had. The summer of 2017 will be one I won’t soon forget. While my duties as staff writer definitely go beyond just writing, I was tasked with setting up and running a show at the Bayfront in Duluth with Cloud Cult headlining, but also booked a concert series for the entire summer at Leif Erikson Park. I had to fill nine dates happening every Thursday with two acts each, so 18 bands total.
By the time owner/publisher, Bob Boone, got the go ahead from the City, insurance companies, vendors, and all the other things that it takes to have a summer concert series, I had less time than I’d like to admit to contact dozens of musicians and ask them if they’d be a part of the shows I was putting together. I guess those years of being a former booking agent and a person who writes about music helped things fall into place. While it was certainly stressful, it was also rewarding when the shows weren’t cancelled due to weather.
I may have mentioned in the past that while I consider myself a Northlander and find the Twin Ports to be the place I call “home,” I actually come from the South Shore. I always find it funny when I say I’m from the South Shore and people ask where that is. My original stomping grounds include Herbster, Cornucopia, Bayfield, Washburn, and I was born in Ashland, Wisconsin. The music scene in those parts is a little more hit and miss than here in the Twin Ports, but there still are people who play and perform in that neck of the woods. The area means a lot to me and I’ve tried to help out letting people know that there in fact is music coming out of that area to this day.
The thing about working at the Reader is that we have a calendar that spans out roughly two to three hours in every direction out of the Twin Ports. Social media also helps me stay on top of what people are doing. In my past, there have been bands like Floydian Slip that kind of reflect the hippie side of the Chequamegon Bay (the body of water that separates Washburn and Ashland for those who don’t know what the South Shore is). Big Top Chautauqua also reflects some of this on a larger scale.
On that note, let me introduce Noble Sound System. I ended up booking this reggae/dub group this summer on a whim because they seemed like one of the more promising acts coming out of the area I grew up in. The band consists of Noble Falconer on vocals and guitar, Marlin Ledin on bass and backing vocals, and Dane Hauser on drums. I guess this is now the part where besides explaining where the South Shore is, I must also get into explaining a genre. I guess one of the easiest bands to bring up would be Sublime because for some reason that’s probably the band everyone knows that kind of falls into this vein of music. However, Sublime leans over into ska, punk and pop more than Noble Sound System. This group actually gets closer to Long Beach Dub Allstars, a band formed from Sublime members after Bradley Nowell died from an overdose quite some time ago. While most will immediately recognize Bob Marley as the probably one the most influential reggae artists of all time, and there are certainly bands like The Slackers who do carry a feel of reggae before getting full on ska like Skankin’ Pickle, or Mustard Plug, or punk ska like Operation Ivy. Noble Sound System has a definite laid back groove.
I guess I’ll get my one criticism of the band out of the way, they have their groove, a steady and slow hypnotic twist of sounds that hit the ears pretty well, and they really stick to that. While I think this music is actually pretty awesome and most people who like jam bands or reggae should eat this up and love it, it’s still a one trick pony. I think this is the problem with becoming a little too defined on a specific genre. From the very first song, you know what you’re in for, and if you have a beer and maybe some other party favor, this is great. But I know it’s going to be upstrokes on the guitar, quick on the high-hat and slow on the snare, and smooth pulsing bass notes throughout. They spent a lot of time being so good at just one thing they seemed to have forgotten that music is potentially limitless. When comparing to other bands that are in a similar niche, I know it’s possible to have a core of a genre, but get outside of the box somehow. Still, overall, if you’re down for some grooving reggae/dub, well, this is the album for you.
The first track opens with “Still Dancing.” I guess it might be good to explain Dub music. It’s a subgenre of reggae that is highlighted by using effects, typically a delay or echo. This is most noted on the vocals and snare. There is something pretty fun and a little trippy with this style of music. Of course the chorus gets a little repetitive with, “she’s still dancing” over and over.
Likewise the song “Foolish Fool” uses the phrase a little heavily. It kind of masks the overall message of calling out Christianity and how it still perpetuates violence, greed, and arrogance despite the message of Christ’s teachings overall. “You know not of what you speak,” sings Falconer. An obvious reference to the quote from Jesus as he hung crucified, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know they are doing.”
I’ll just keep moving with the song “Tell it Like it is,” again a little repetitive. I actually didn’t really know how much marijuana involved lyrics were involved when I booked them for a family friendly public show in a Duluth park. Overall, considering that there are now several states that have legalized weed for adult recreational use, I didn’t feel too awkward that people up the hill side could probably hear some chill reggae music several block down where pot was the main focus of the lyrics. People would probably better off with cannabis over alcohol anyway.
The album ends off with “Taking it Easy” and I guess this is fitting, because this album does really take it easy. It’s chill, it’s cool, and it’s certainly fun. This is the music to play at your next BBQ or dinner party when hanging with your friends. As far as the live show, I have to say the band does really set the mood I’ve tried to describe. By all means, check them out on Saturday, December 23 at Red Herring as they celebrate the release of this album with a perfect match of supporting performers, King J-Lar, and Woodblind. They can be checked out on Bandcamp, and should have CDs at the show.