Reggae band John Brown’s Body comes to Vail |

Reggae band John Brown’s Body comes to Vail

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

If you want to keep a band’s heart beating despite massive setbacks, take notes from Elliot Martin and Tommy Benedetti, two founding members of the progressive reggae group John Brown’s Body. After the death of bassist Scott Palmer (now replaced by Nathan Edgar), Martin’s throat surgery to remove polyps and the departure of several key members of the band, Benedetti and Martin recruited new players and found renewed strength to continue JBB’s legacy.

Martin’s voice now sounds better than ever and according to Benedetti, he’s very happy with the direction the band has taken since that dark time only a couple years ago.

“There was a decent amount of uncertainty for a little bit when we were in the midst of everything going down. A lot of this stuff kind of happened quickly and kind of happened at once,” said Benedetti, drummer for the eight-piece ensemble.

Keeping the band going in the face of tragedy and change appears easier than it was, Benedetti said, but he believed in the band enough to keep it going.

The group will perform Thursday night at the Sandbar in West Vail.

“Dude, I love them. They’re my favorite American reggae band,” said Scott Peterson, aka DJ Weez, the radio personality who hosts the weekly One Love reggae program on KZYR. “I’ve never been disappointed ever when I’ve seen them and (I’ve got) nothing but the biggest respect for those guys.”

John Brown’s Body recently released “Amplify,” their seventh album in just more than a decade.

“It’s always an exciting time to put out a record,” Benedetti said. “I feel incredibly great about this record. As somebody that’s been part of JBB since day one, I feel that it’s some of our strongest stuff that we’ve been able to put to record. It’s exciting music, I feel it’s really lush and creative music … the songs are really nice and there’s a really good flow and focus through the album.”

It would appear that many listeners feel the same way. “Amplify” took the top spot this week when it entered Billboard’s Top Reggae Albums chart. JBB’s last album, “Pressure Points,” peaked at number 11.

“It’s pretty exciting to come out of the gates at number one after all we’ve been through,” Benedetti said.

“Amplify” has a cohesive sound, which is likely because most of the writing was done by lead vocalist Martin. In the past, Martin shared songwriting duties with former bandmate Kevin Kinsella. Having two songwriters often led to the band having two different sounds, which was a source of some tension, Benedetti said.

“That’s a pretty obvious change and that’s a major change for us and it’s something that was inevitable and that was going to happen for a few years,” Benedetti said.

Even so, there are no hard feelings between those who left the band and the current lineup, Benedetti said.

The slow shift from pure roots reggae toward a more progressive and evolving sound that includes elements of hip-hop, electronica and rock is one of the reasons for the band’s sustained success.

“JBB to me is a band that’s always in motion,” Benedetti said. “I think that’s one of the reasons we’re still here after 10 years of doing this.”

The band is inspired by an eclectic array of music.

“We love roots-reggae still, you know, it still inspires us ” the classics: Burning Spear, Sly and Robbie, Aswad ” but that being said, we’re all into an incredible amount of music,” Benedetti said.

Influences as varying as Jimi Hendrix, The Mars Volta and George Clinton and the Parliament-Funkadelic find their way into the music of John Brown’s Body, Benedetti said.

And even with all the lineup changes, Benedetti said fans can still expect the same JBB vibe as before at their live shows.

“I feel really lucky to be able to be doing this after all these years and to have people still come out and support (us) after all we’ve been through and to have people stick with us and really be interested and following us on this musical journey is pretty humbling and very cool,” Benedetti said.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or

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