13 tracks of languidly paced, percussion heavy acoustic reggae. A fragrant spiritual
groundation. This heavy, heavy musical statement, runs the gamut from classics like “Turn The Lights On” to brand new cuts “Calling All the Youth” and “Police Bway the Vampire”. Featuring Reggae legend Willi Williams and an extended family of brethren, this is the heartbeat sound of Big Sugar.
It’s like the sound of Negril at night, in Johnson’s words. More accurately, it’s the sound Big Sugar during those long days on the road; a rolling jam session that travels from the bus to the radio station to the backstage lounge. “That place where our entire band gets together on a regular basis,” is how Johnson describes it. “We listen to the drumming and the chanting and we have a moment of mental focus before every show, we burn frankincense and other things, and everybody gets their mental game together, then we walk out and do a rock show.”
It was only natural to gather this alternate version of Big Sugar in a studio, invite all of their friends, sit in a circle with wooden instruments, a deep selection of songs old ones, new ones, some you’ve probably never heard before and then press record. It’s a direct transmission from the band’s private realm straight to your ears. “How could that not be a good idea?” Johnson asks. And so followed recording of drumming, chanting, extended family, and electricity free reinvention. Yard Style is the result.
Willi Williams, the Jamaica born and bred Armagideon Man’s influence is felt all over Yard Style. “He’s a pretty major force in solidifying this thing conceptually,”says Gordie Johnson. Williams is a semi-permanent fixture in the Big Sugar lineup where he joins bassist Garry Lowe, drummer Stephane “Bodean” Beaudin, one man horn section Kelly “Mr Chill” Hoppe and toastmaster DJ Friendlyness. The other major force behind Yard Style? Besides the echoes of ocean and tree frogs whistling away in the distance, it’s that omnipresent nyabingi drum. “It’s the first great acoustic instrument,” Johnson says with reverence. “That’s the heartbeat sound, you know?”