I imagine for reasons of component origins, whenever I spend much time pondering the blues, I end up thinking about reggae and ska. Hepcat’s Push ‘n Shoveis my favorite American ska album of the last several years, and one of my faves going all the way back to to the British ska revival of the late ’70s and early ’80s and bands like the Specials, Madness, the Selecter, English Beat, and Fine Young Cannibals.
Although the tempos onthe CD are sometimes slower (more in the rocksteady range) than traditional ska, with Hepcat’s emphasis on the original jazzy ska horn and vocal sounds, and a powerful spirit, all of the charm and joy of Kingston in the ’60s come shining through.
Another positive: the 7-piece tri-racial band (black, white, Hispanic) from LA embodies the One World spirit of the British ska revival.
Singer Greg Lee is excellent, with a throaty, soulful voice reminiscent of Fine Young Cannibals’ great Roland Gift, and in the killer horn section, trumpeter Kincaid Smith stands out. All but two of the superior songs on the CD are originals, one being a simmering version of Brenton Wood’s soul classic “Gimme Little Sign,” and the other being “Tek Dat,” a cool old calypso by Lord Funny with a groove so deep it’s subterranean. Hepcat is the real thing.