Review: Rocksteady - Josh and the Jamtones

Josh and the Jamtones Rocksteady album cover

Josh and the Jamtones Rocksteady album cover

Kids music is generally not a field for the low-energy musician.  Maybe it's the coffee right before the 10 AM gig, maybe it's the bright morning sunlight, maybe it's the incredible bundles of energy that are your favorite 4- or 7-year-old, but whatever the reason, artists with calm approaches like Elizabeth Mitchell or Raffi stand out for their comparative rarity.

Still, in a field of high energy performers, Boston's Josh and the Jamtones stand out.  Live, they bring it on like few kids' musicians do, mixed with a lot of stage banter and interplay between leader Josh Shriber, drummer Patrick Hanlin, and the rest of the band.  On record, their music had captured some of the energy and some of the humor, but hadn't fully translated their live concert experience to the home listener.

Until now.

The band's new album Rocksteady takes that energy and humor, wraps it in a ska-pop package, and sends it out into the world, ready to sweep up everyone in its path and deposit them gently on the living room rug, worn out from forty minutes of dancing (with occasional comedic skit breaks).  This is an album, after all, whose first full song, "Race U," almost literally ends with the singers pantomiming that they're out of breath.  There are a dozen or so songs here, mostly revved up ska tracks, with very little purpose other than to move the feet and bodies of whoever can hear the music.  Sure, there's some call-and-response on the title track and some shouts-out to classic tracks like "Sloop John B" and Toots and the Maytals' "Monkeyman" (both of them featuring Jesse Wagner from the Aggrolites).  But really this is just a straight-ahead piece of entertainment, no learning necessary.  (Other songs of note: Secret Agent 23 Skidoo joining in on the AutoTune-d "I Love You" and the totally rocking "Tailfeather.")

The album will be most appropriate for kids ages 4 through 8.  You watch videos for a number of their songs at the band's YouTube channel.

Have I made it clear enough that Rocksteady is a party, through and through?  Because it is, enough so that your kids probably won't even need that lullaby album to fall asleep to after dancing like crazy.  Definitely recommended.

Note: I received a copy of this album for possible review.