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Wailing Souls

About this Artist

Wailing Souls are standard bearers and among the few active surviving elder statesmen from the birth and the golden era of reggae music. With a career spanning more than five decades, from rock steady through reggae to dancehall and beyond, their canon is part of the soundtrack of Jamaica itself. Songs including “Fire House Rock,” “Jah Jah Give Us Life,” “Mr. Fire Coal Man,” and “Shark Attack” mark creative high points in reggae history. 

With release set for August 28, 2020, Back A Yard is the group’s 25th album in a career that includes three Grammy Award nominations for Best Reggae Album, and a pioneering 1992 appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

The concise, 11-song album features the group’s two longstanding, charter members, Winston “Pipe” Matthews and Lloyd “Bread” McDonald, ‘back a yard’ (patois for ‘back in Jamaica’) in the studio with production from next generation reggae singer Alborosie. The production features all-star musicians including keyboardist Tyrone Downie (formerly of The Wailers) and bassist Errol “Flabba” Holt of the Roots Radics, who backed Wailing Souls on several of their key releases in the 1980s. Alborosie’s deep study of Jamaican music was heavily influenced by the Souls and their heyday at Channel One studio in the 80s.

For Back A Yard, Alborosie re-imagined a late-80s sound that hearkens to the Souls’ albums for Delroy Wright’s Live & Learn label, a time when the syndrum was at the forefront of reggae production.

In addition to thick, contemplative tracks like “This Is The Time” and “All About You,” the album revisits one of Wailing Souls’ most loved compositions, “Shark Attack,” with Alborosie singing alternate new verses with Pipe and Bread. Reggae revival songstress Hempress Sativa is also featured on “No Money No Love.”

Pipe and Bread’s creative history dates to Jamaica’s rock steady days in a group called The Renegades with George Haye. A number of name changes would take place into the 1970s, while they would first use the name Wailing Souls for a track called “Gold Digger” for producer Lloyd Daley in 1970. At that time, Pipe and Bread were joined by Norman “Fats D” Davis and Oswald “Sabu” Downer. With this lineup, the group also made a series of key recordings for Coxson Dodd’s iconic Studio One label, which included “Mr. Fire Coal Man,” “Back Out,” and “Things & Time.” These recordings either credited Wailing Souls or The Classics.

The group’s close association with Bob Marley & The Wailers during this era included singing harmony on Marley’s “Trench Town Rock” and seeing two tracks released on Marley’s Tuff Gong label in 1972, as Pipe & The Pipers.

While the Souls have worked with many record labels over the years, including Island, Columbia, and BMG, many associate their greatest recordings with Greensleeves Records and a series of albums including Fire House RockInchpinchersOn The Rocks, and Stranded. During this period, the group was known for its four-part harmonies that included George “Buddy” Haye and Garth Dennis, formerly (and subsequently) of Black Uhuru. They were both in the group from 1976-1985, starting with the update of “Things & Time.”

With Back A Yard, Wailing Souls further solidify their place among Jamaican music’s all-time greats.