Uluru, Wallabies and Dreadlocks: Skatalites On the Right Track

The Skatalites have recorded a new album, On the Right Track,while in Australia. "The first night of our trip we started seeing kangaroos, or wallabies, along the road. We saw at least a dozen—more in the shadows. That alone was enough to inspire plenty of creativity."

The location of the recording sessions, Byron Bay, also hosts one of the biggest music festivals in the world, The East Coast Blues and Roots Music Festival, which annually plays host to scores of world-renowned artists from many countries and genres. The town is used to great music. The Skatalites felt right at home."We came to Byron Bay without much previously conceived material. One melody I had in my head and then a couple guys had tunes ready but we had never rehearsed a bit of it," says Ken Stewart. We had to work out harmonies and progressions from there. One of the nights of the festival featured us with Yothu Yindi, an Aboriginal rock band who were like Pink Floyd goes Didgeridoo. After that was Damian Marley. Those two performances were both so unique they gave us the energy we needed to finish the CD. Although scheduling was a bit tough, (as we were recording around festival performances) the creative juices were flowing nicely due to the cast, the beautiful weather and beaches and just a whole new experience."

Those recording sessions became The Skatalites On the Right Track. The album is only the second new material album from The Skatalites. The first spawned one of the group’s two Grammy nods. The other 30 some albums have been cover songs of everything from Cuban to American to The Beatles.

Lester Sterling’s "Uluru Rock" was named in honor of Australia’s iconic red sandstone monolith known worldwide. Located in central Australia, Uluru is sacred to the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara, who live in that region. Australia also inspired Val Douglas to write "Outback Ska."

On the Right Track features several original Skatalites including the inventor of the ska beat and founding member, Lloyd Knibb. Original saxophonist Lester Sterling and soulful vocalist Doreen Schaeffer carry on the never-ending rhythm they pioneered. Old school JA set musicians; Karl ‘Cannonball’ Bryan on tenor sax, Vin Gordon on trombone, Val Douglas on bass along with Devon James on guitar (who played with many of the original members) have all been in the line-up for years. Ken Stewart, manager and keyboardist since the 80s, plays a Hammond B3 on this album, best heard on the title cut "Right Track." Kevin Batchelor has also played trumpet with Sugar Minott, Maxi Priest, Big Mountain and Steel Pulse amongst many others.

Buy On the Right Track.