“Streetlevel Uprising always bring positive vibrations everywhere they go!”
— Mike Murphy, 90.1 FM KKFI Kansas City
Streetlevel Uprising's Sunshine Music
Singer-songwriter Jay Canter is the creative force driving the reggae-rock band Streetlevel Uprising. Their third album, Sunshine Music, is rich with the social commentary, uplifting affirmations, lively melodies, and fiery grooves that have always defined this band.
“How can you hear sunshine?” Jay says with a laugh, referencing the title. “It’s just a universal positive vibe expressed as music. It’s not meant to be ironic, we’re not cynical.” This is a band whose sound has grown considerably. “The first album was an acoustic reggae feel and the second took a step toward where we are now.” Quite naturally, Streetlevel Uprising’s sound evolved into their “fire and sunshine” brand of reggae-rock that is in full effect on Sunshine Music. Though still based around Jay’s acoustic guitar, their grooves are among the heaviest in reggae, thanks to the powerful rhythm section.
With four musicians joining after the release of their second album, The Pendulum Swing, Streetlevel Uprising now features original bassist Bill Walker and keyboardist Zate Lockard plus drummer Nate Deel, percussionist Jae “Bongo” Landreth, trumpeter/trombonist Kelli Earthling, and saxophonist Greg Barry.
On record or on stage, you notice the horns and vocal harmonies instantly. “Kelli and Greg lifted us to a new level,” Jay says, “and Bill and Zate just have this rare vocal blend.” Jay’s presence – dreads dragging the ground, urgent vocals, and his vibrant and emotive lyrics – lend him a passionate charm. His message, whether sharply critical or warmly compassionate, is one of togetherness. “Pounding something into people’s heads is not the way you make change. Emotion connects people.” He invites everyone into his songs through his non-dogmatic approach to social change. “We offer a humanitarian message; human rights, social equality, protection of the environment, farmers’ rights. It’s not about this party or that party. We’re a conscious band. We’re not a political band.”
The new 13-track record is thoughtfully balanced. “I tend to group songs into two categories, the revolutionary and the celebration of life,” says Jay. “I feel the need to remind myself that even though we talk about a lot of messed up stuff, that’s not all it’s about. There are some beautiful things.”
Sunshine Music opens with “Irie, Irie,” a blessing of peace and joy even amidst the worst of humanity, while the title track speaks of the day “when love and kindness just fall on us like sunshine.” “Home” embodies the spirit of positivity through the words “I will be love and I’m not ashamed to say it.”
Throughout the album, Streetlevel Uprising takes on racism, sexism, violence, oppression, and greed. The scorching “This is Babylon” aims squarely at economic disparity and corporate misdeeds. The simmering one drop of “Seams” shines a light on cultural divisiveness and “Change Something” pleads for action against injustice with a chorus of, “If you know something, say something, do something, change something.”
While happy with Sunshine Music, Jay is already looking ahead. “We really live for the shows,” he says. “That’s my favorite part of being in a band. And having Jae, Kelli, and Greg on board makes it even more fun.” That enthusiasm is apparent, with “energy” being the word most often associated with their incendiary live performances. Jay dances and jumps around, massive web of locks flying, while Zate bobs to the music. Bill strolls and grooves around his side of the stage, and Bongo Jae is a conga-pounding madman. “Lyrically, we do try to raise awareness of certain issues. But we love music, we love entertaining, and we love making people happy.”
Best of Lawrence 2019: #10 band (#4 original band, #1 reggae band)