Personnel: Jeb Loy Nichols (background vocals); Skip McDonald (guitar, background vocals); Vince Black, Sowell, Dalton Browine, Bingy Bunny (guitar); Richard Doswell (saxophone); Dave Fullwood (trumpet); Chris Petter (trombone); Franklyn "Bubbler" Waul, Carlton "Bubblers" Ogilvie (piano, organ, keyboards); Lincoln "Style" Scott (drums); Ghetto Priest (background vocals).
Liner Note Author: Adrian Sherwood.
Recording information: Channel One Studios, Kingston, Jamaica; Leggo Studios, Kingston, Jamaica; Livingstone Studios, London N22; On-U Sound.
Singer/songwriter Jeb Loy Nichols hasn't issued an album since he and Nostalgia 77's Ben Lamdin teamed up for The Jeb Loy Nichols Special in 2012. A few limited-edition singles have popped up, but the artist has kept a low profile. Long Time Traveller dates back to 2010, when it was issued in Japan as a very limited release from On-U Sound and Beat Records. The songwriter has a longstanding relationship with On-U Sound dating back to the earliest days of the post-punk era, when he provided occasional backing vocals for its dubplates. Nichols' love of reggae goes back to his days with the Fellow Travellers, who fused Americana, country, and dub. As good as those recordings were, though, they don't touch these. This date finds him in familiar company with members of the Dub Syndicate, Roots Radics, and the Crispy Horns, as well as Skip McDonald and Ghetto Priest. Producer and sonic alchemist Adrian Sherwood is at the controls. Sherwood (who did a stellar remix of Nichols' lone hit "As the Rain") effortlessly stitches the singer's soul-tinged Americana croon to steamy, dreadwise dub riddims. He also thoroughly remixed and remastered the date for this release. Opener "To Be Rich (Should Be a Crime)" weaves grooving, Jackie Mittoo-esque organ and a Flabba Holt-inspired bubbling bassline, rolling tom-toms, and snares as they roil under skanking guitars. Nichols (with backing vocalists who croon equal parts Nyabinghi and gospel) indicts the wealthy. But their case is made softly, almost sweetly -- the rhythm section underscores the lyric weight and brings it home. "The Day You Came Over the Hill" uses irony and metaphor to express love, loss, and heartbreaking vulnerability The R&B-cum-Nashville vibe in "Lonely King of the Country" is highlighted by a ranking bassline, elastic atmospheric space, and a hooky melody. "Mr. Nobody" offers an unusually crystalline honky tonk piano. Nichols' vocal is tenderness personified, supported by a Sherwood mix of rocksteady grooves played gently enough to buoy the loneliness in the vocal, not steamroll over it. "97 Miles" is great lover's rock, but in the melody the singer manages to graft his trademark delivery even as he evokes both Gregory Isaacs (Roots Radics were his regular backing band) and country-soul crooner Ronnie Milsap! Nichols can also be as humid and dank as the dub musicians behind him: Check the dark, paranoid strangeness in "Moving Time" where the Crispy Horns add the track's only glimmers of light. On-U has added a second disc to this reissue. It contains four previously unreleased songs. ("Miss Moon" is prime Nichols, while "This Dark Road" is among the most straight-ahead "country" tracks he's ever cut.) In addition are seven alternate mixes, and each is killer. Long Time Traveller is a fine resurrected lost chapter. The songs are great, of course, but uncharacteristically, they're equaled by the assembled musical corps. For fans of Nichols, (and/or Sherwood and On-U Sound), this set is a must. ~ Thom Jurek