In Between Dub
Before his death in 2021 at the age of 85, Jamaican dub innovator Lee “Scratch” Perry had spent roughly seven decades transforming the sound of rocksteady, ska, reggae, and dancehall by looping rhythm sections and applying heavy doses of reverb (and often his own gravelly voice) to what otherwise would’ve been conventional songs. Bob Marley, The Upsetters, The Congos, Junior Murvin, Linval Thompson, even The Clash wouldn’t sound the same without Scratch’s early style of remixing. He also, somewhat surprisingly, dubbed out records by Linda McCartney and the Beastie Boys. So, perhaps it wasn’t the oddest of couplings when lifelong reggae fan Jack Johnson reached out to Scratch in 2020 to rework some of the Hawaiian singer-songwriter’s key tunes of the preceding two decades, especially considering both artists’ generally subdued, island vibe. That was the genesis for In Between Dub, but Perry only got a few songs in before he died. Two songs from Johnson’s 2003 album, On and On—“Traffic in the Sky” and “Times Like These”—receive the exclusive Scratch treatment, and also feature Perry’s vocals in conversation with Jackson’s; “Wasting Time” also captures Scratch’s voice, but with the help of his studio mates Subatomic Sound System doing the posthumous production work. Johnson’s acoustic guitar isn’t immediately a natural fit for dub, but in Perry’s hands—and in those of the other dub titans here, including Mad Professor, Scientist, and British lovers rock architect Dennis Bovell—Johnson’s signature remains a central feature while comfortably nesting inside the studio trickery. Maybe not surprisingly, some of the more interesting versions here come from UK downtempo producer Nightmares on Wax, who doesn’t feel as obligated to paint with the usual dub palette and, instead, ends up converting “Better Together” and “Breakdown” into something a little more leftfield while still retaining their laidback spirit.