ALTON ELLIS 1940-2008

We were sad to hear that one of rocksteady's founding fathers passed away Friday October 10. Possessed with one of Jamaica's sweetest voices, Ellis rose to prominence in the early 1960's after recording "Muriel" with Coxone Dodd at Studio One. He went on to work with everyone who mattered in the ska and rocksteady scenes, from Duke Reid to Phillis Dillon to the Heptones. He was inducted to the International Reggae and World Music Awards Hall of Fame in 2006. He died in London, England; the cause was cancer of the lymph nodes.

Here is the track that gave a genre its name, "Get Ready- Rock Steady":




Los Angeles is a tough city, and Highland Park is even tougher. This was one of those nights when the venue itself (the venerable dive bar Mr. T’s Bowl) felt like a dreary signifier of LA’s gradual return to charred sand and chaparral. Mistreated by the over-zealous bouncer (“What you got in that bag?” “…A guitar”) and vibed out by a blonde bartender who looked straight out of Day of the Locust and sold water for $2.50 a bottle, the bands played to each other. “This is our last Sunday for shows,” the graying booker of the club remarked.

A good band plays to the room. Dirt Dress is quite capable of hypnotizing a willing crowd, but they are also able to provide the soundtrack to a night that feels like the end of world. Woozy, stumbling guitars give way to squalls of feedback; the rhythm section feels satisfyingly (and purposefully) sloppy. Live, “Go To Sleep” has an otherworldly, almost terrifying quality to it. Noah, singer, chants the line with a sort of detached fervor. Over and over he repeats the words, as if he were trying to coax a lover to sleep, though the whole town’s ablaze.

If you happen to live down south, check them out at Echo Curio, November 8, or at the nebulous “GUERRILLA FEST,” proudly displayed on their myspace and supposedly happening at “different locations throughout LA” this Saturday, Oct. 11. Should be good, if you can find it.

Dirt Dress has several releases: a tape you can get at their shows or probably from their label, papermade (http://www.papermadeorg.org/readlisten), and a sort of digital mini-LP available at cokemachineglow (http://www.cokemachineglow.com/record_review/3564/dirtdress-themesongs-2008). Both are excellent. They also have a bunch of stuff on their myspace: http://www.myspace.com/dirtdress