When Jonas Saw the Light
What the Sea Remembers
Smokestacks and Steeples
Before the Day Star
World is Turning
As They Sleep
The phrase “the third times' the charm” may have made its first appearance in Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in 1602. Regardless of the eventual etymology behind the catchphrase, the third time for Toronto’s Kobo Town was not a charm; it was simply even more charming than the first two times. The “third time” for Kobo Town has a name and it is “Where the Galleon Sank”, their soon to be released third studio album. Not even old Bill Shakespeare could have come close with his quill and ink well to the lyrical genius that founder and bandleader Drew Gonsalves demonstrated throughout the album. With the almost intolerable task of improving on 2013’s JUNO Award nominated “Jumbie in the Jukebox” Gonsalves proved his mettle as “Galleon” demonstrates the virtuosic talent running through the veins of this Calypso poet and prophet.
“Galleon” is an intimate, and at times, private peek into the life of Gonsalves. Kobo Town’s first two studio albums, “Independence” (2006) and the aforementioned, “Jumbie in the Jukebox” were raucous and rebellious testimonies to the struggle for rights, justice and the melancholic sweaty, yet humorous foundations of Calypso. Both were wonderful flights of fancy, drawing the listener in to a world of vibrant color, celebration of life and struggle for social equality. “Galleon” keeps many of the same musical elements, while imbuing us with an intimate understanding of Gonsalves’ deepest experiences, hopes, prayers and whimsical musings. It could be considered a diary for sure; one the listener will never tire of sinking into. Where most artists are hesitant in displaying such an open channel to their true nature, Gonsalves welcomes us in, almost apologetically, yet with a sly and thinly hidden desire to set the hook in our hearts and ears.
Epic anthems are plenty on this album, from the bouncing; joyfully jubilant “King Sugar” that pays homage to the sugar cane industry that populated Gonsalves’ home country of Trinidad, to the reflection on a nearly ill-fated trip to Pakistan in “Karachi Burning” and a respectful reverence for mothers and their sacrifices in “Scarborough Girl.” Gonsalves also exhibits a deeply rooted spiritual resonance with the dynamically evangelical “When Jonas Saw the Light”, a song that gives way to the image of a gospel choir swaying back and forth in a small church nestled far away in the countryside, giving thanks and praise for a redeemed soul. “Before the Day Star” is a monumental hymn that speaks of Gonsalves’ unabashed and unapologetic respect for the worth of all human life. Of all the songs on “Galleon” this is the one that has, and will stick with me. The final track on the album almost belies the soul, energy and moxie on the rest of the cuts, yet it is the most personal and intimate of any of the songs. “As They Sleep” is a shameless flood of love for Gonsalves’ own children. I can imagine him sitting quietly in the corner of one of his children’s bedrooms, plucking soulfully on his cuatro singing them to sleep and he himself soon thereafter joins them in their slumber.
“Where the Galleon Sank” is an assured achievement, not just in the world of Calypso, Reggae, Ska or World Beat music, but in the world of music. It is a grand achievement that, as with the first two albums by Kobo Town, welcomes the listener in, envelopes them in real and mature music and challenges them to enjoy themselves, dance, smile and clap, but also come away a different and better human being. The album is necessary for any musical library.
Gonsalves and Kobo Town have another glorious achievement in “Where the Galleon Sank” and I am quite convinced somewhere, William Shakespeare is tapping his foot to the mesmerizing syncopation of this album.