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Dreadlock diaspora

Colorado's reggae-inspired DubSkin give dancehall rhythms a Front Range makeover



These days, the stoned ski towns of Colorado just might be more receptive venues for reggae rhythms than the genre's ancestral shores of Jamaica. A case in point is Fort Collins' own dub purveyors, DubSkin, who stay true to reggae's roots, selling out strings of shows in places like Crested Butte, Breckenridge and Winter Park with their Rastafarian-inspired message.

"People go to ski towns, and they party, and they live their lives to have fun and snowboard," says drummer Cory Eberhard, who left the popular electronic act Pretty Lights last year, preferring the group feel of his reggae band. "It's a change of pace. I like playing with a bunch of different musicians as opposed to playing with one other guy and a computer."

Since its inception, DubSkin has been closely tied to the Pretty Lights camp. Eberhard helped found both bands back in 2006, and Pretty Lights mastermind Derek Smith produced the reggae outfit's first album, Love In Spite Of ....

DubSkin also has ties with another Colorado act, Afro-fusionists Euforquestra. Percussionist Matt Grundstad and guitarist Mike Tallman both split time between their reggae band and the fusion project.

Eberhard traces DubSkin's origins back to his meeting vocalist Jamal Skinner, who had relocated from Long Island to Fort Collins for school.

"Jamal and I noticed there aren't too many reggae bands in Colorado," he explains. "So I gathered up different musicians I knew to see if they wanted to play."

The group's second album, produced by John Brown's Body's Jason "Jocko" Randall, bears a similar sound to its first effort. Randall is also mastering the group's current untitled project, which finds the band skanking into the more uptempo ground of Jamaican dancehall music.

"We don't want to be treading over the same ground over and over," says Eberhard.

Even so, the six musicians continue to share common ideals with Rastafarian mysticism. While nobody in the group is a full-time, card-carrying Rasta, they all strive to bring the lessons and values of the movement into their music.

"Rasta is a fairly loose word," says Eberhard, "and most of us probably agree with 95 percent of the philosophy of Rasta regardless of whether we're walking around wearing red, gold and green non-stop."

DubSkin has received love from such celebrated reggae acts as Israel Vibration, Barrington Levy and Midnite. Before DubSkin performed an opening slot for the Jamaican reggae legend Burning Spear, the singer came up to the band to show his support for their efforts.

"He came up individually to each one of us and gave us a pound and respect," recalls Eberhard. "To have a legend like that come up, and be so humble, and say 'what's up' was really cool."

But the homegrown reggae rockers aren't content staying within the age-old parameters of reggae.

"Easy Star All-Stars put out Sgt. Pepper's and Dark Side of the Moon as reggae albums. If those albums can be reggae albums, and sound so different as reggae, then it shows there's lots of places for reggae and for us to go."

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