Smudge All-Stars
‘Our Lives,’ feat. Earl Sixteen, Lee ‘Scratch’ Petty, and Dennis Bovell

The Orchard Music

This is the début single of Smudge All-Stars, a reggae-infected ‘analog intelligence network,’ formed seven years ago in London, England.  From what I can gather, Smudge All-Stars is a massive collective centred around legendary session musician, Richie Stevens.  Here, a collection of legends come together, based around the music of Dennis Bovell.  Bovell is a Barbadian reggae artist based in London, famed for his work in Matumbi, and under both his own name and Blackbeard, which saw him work in dub.  Earl Sixteen, for those of you don’t know, is another legend.  He’s Jamaican and has been around since the 70s, and aside from a very long solo discography, he has worked with everyone from Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry to Leftfield to Mad Professor to Gorillaz.  And then there’s Perry himself.  Still going strong at the age of 84, he released a dub interpretation, Heavy Rain, of his recent Rainford album, from May 2019.

Beginning in an almost Beatlesque dreamscape, ‘Our Lives’ emerges slowly around a piano and Sixteen’s almost falsetto and then the big, phat bassline and beat, with this wicked little hornbit.  Sixteen’s vocals are about nothing more complex than the progression of life, and the need to keep on keeping on through the hard times.  Towards the end, Lee ‘Scratch Perry’ provides his own interpretation, dropping his knowledge and his perspective.  And coming from someone of his vintage, the strength of his declaration that ‘we love to stay alive,’ I don’t know, man.  I’m watching my 90-year old father-in-law, with advanced dementia, just holding on, refusing to go out.  He’s still surrounded by love and joy, even if he is not entirely sure what’s going on around him, he can feel all that.  So there’s something to be said for staying alive, no?