Of course, West Lafayette is thousands miles away from both the cluttered slums of Kingston and the grimy streets of London, and Indiana might not seem like a hotspot for ska and reggae music. But native-born ska act Green Room Rockers are doing their best to turn it into one.
After roughly five years of touring and recording, the band is taking a stab at the national (and maybe international) ska scene with a fantastic, self-titled sophomore album. Following in the wake of roots-reggae revivalists such as The Aggrolites and Westbound Train, the Green Room Rockers incorporate diverse elements into their music in the attempt to a rejuvenate traditional ska.
"Conqueror" opens with the band's signature smooth organ sound and solid guitar work. As the rest of the band kicks in, the song grinds along at a groovy pace that holds steady throughout the course of the album. Horns, so instrumental to the ska sound, kick in to great effect on the melodic and soulful "Alone," then take center stage on later tracks like political party jam "Broke" and cautious love song "Seal The Deal".
While all the instrumentation on the record is top-notch, the linchpin of the band's sound is their sensational lead singer, hype-man and organist Mark "Rudy G" Cooper. His organ work on the album alone would make him the key member of the band, but he also handles vocal duties with truly impressive mastery. His voice is both forceful and soulful, which helps deliver the punch on the more serious songs like working class anthem "To Make Ends Meet".
The band lays out its manifesto about halfway through the record with the chill yet danceable "Basement Shows," a nostalgic walk through a basement show populated by its archetypes — cops, dancing girls, meat heads,etc. "This small town may be dyin," wails Cooper in the chorus, "but we got a place to go."
If this record is as well received as it deserves to be, the Green Room Rockers' days of playing basement shows will be numbered as they head to bigger and bigger clubs. With a high-profile slot on last year's Riot Fest and a stint on the upcoming Ska Is Dead: Young Guns tour with We Are The Union, it seems as if the band is finally turning heads outside of the Hoosier state.