Its no mystery that I am a Jersey girl, through and through. Listen to my radio show or my podcast, and you can hear it. It's not just in what I talk about...my endless stories of show travels over bridges and tunnels to New York and Philadelphia...its also that I have the WORST North Jersey accent, and I can't hide it if I try. It gets worse if I have been drinking too. Hand me a copy of Weird NJ to read while I eat my taylor ham sandwich in an all night diner, and I couldn't be happier. I am fiercely defensive of my home state, and when someone does something great from our grounds, it's pride I can't even hope to properly describe.
Obi Fernandez, man, you done good.
My dear friend and fellow ska podcaster Randy from Ska Crazy got me into Westbound Train not that long ago. An amazing band from top to bottom, but my favorite aspect of the band was always the vocals. There was just so much soul in the way Obi Fernandez sings, and it set them apart from other ska bands. As a singer myself, I tend to focus on vocals even when I try not to. It's just where my ear goes. More than that though, I fall in love with them. They get under my skin and trickle right into my soul when they are done right, and they ruin a song entirely when they are done wrong. Obi Fernandez does it right. So very right. When I heard chatter about Obi doing a solo record, my excitement was probably tangible.
Then I got to hear the song The Color of Your Voice.
It was released as a teaser a few months ago, and I clicked that link over and over and over again that day. To this very moment, it's a song I cannot get enough of. Those soulful vocals I adore are there. I have no idea what inspired the lyrics, but damn if I don't wish someone was singing it about me. Even if it's not good. It's just beautiful. The female backups give it a retro flare that makes me think of mod dresses and high hair with white gloves on pretty ladies with synchronized hip movements. I am so in love with this track. But it in no way stops there.
Obi Fernandez is a versatile artist. His style is one that branches out like a willow tree across a wide spectrum of styles, but his sound is so much his own at the same time. This album, Confession, Waves and the Garden State, has many different elements of music stacked up like a beautiful audible game of Jenga that never falls. There is a very prevalent reggae flavor through songs like Check Your Time, Have You Ever, and Don't Turn away. Those gorgeous backup vocals are threaded throughout the album. Obi's unique and soulful voice is not overpowering on the mix at all, but because of how good it is...it rises to the top no matter what.
Then you get to a song like Only A Fool. This song would be at home everywhere from mainstream satellite alternative radio stations to the AM radio in a mid 70's sedan. It's a gorgeous layer of vocals, guitar, brass, and bass. Soft and melodic, but intensely emotional in it's presentation. Ugly Comes Out does a similar dance around different styles before it lands squarely on being simply amazing.
My other favorite track on the album is Pills. Lyrically, vocally, beat. It has it all. It grabs you in the beginning and carries you along to the end, and it's the kind of song you are disappointed about being over. You want more. That really sums up the entire album. It's so good, you are sad when you get to the end. So if you are like me, you simply start it over again. This album gets a lot of attention from me. I can't hope to sing as well as Obi Fernandez does, but damn if I don't sing along with every word on this album anyway. And loud. I can't help it. You won't be able to either.
Have I gushed enough? It really is THAT good. If you don't have Confessions, Waves and the Garden State yet, you need it. You can get it HERE and you should do so immediately. Digital and CD are available.
You can also follow Obi Fernandez on Facebook here.