It seems like ages ago when Giant Steps was playing all-ages shows at Spotlights next to the Highland Theatre and even longer still since the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' "The Impression That I Get" was receiving nearly nonstop radio play. But those who long for the good old days of ska supremacy (or at least mainstream success) should take a listen to Danny Winn and the Earthlings' And the Mission Begins for a peppy reminder of why they should wear their checkered hats with pride.
And the Mission Begins serves as a kind of survey course in ska; taking bits and pieces from two-tone and third-wave, as well as reggae. "The best part about the record is that we diversified our sound without changing it," Winn says. Highlights of the album include a highly-caffeinated cover of the Toto classic "Africa" and a stirring tribute to the life and death of Padme. (That's Natalie Portman's character from the new Star Wars films, for non-George Lucas aficionados.) Mission also boasts a talented horn section that includes Jon Dante, principal trumpet player for the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, and 19-year-old sax prodigy John Dubois. On the whole, the record is upbeat, vivacious and true to its roots.
One of the album's most buoyant tunes is "Earthman Stan" (the title is a reference to the stick figure prominently featured on the band's logo). The song discusses the band's ever-present goal of achieving national recognition; and Winn knows he and the Earthlings could be a show away from getting it. "Most overnight successes have been around forever," Winn says. "It's really just a matter of making the right contact or having the right person see you on stage." Winn hopes to find a peaceful coexistence between honest-to-goodness ska and mainstream radio play but says, "If the (ska scene) doesn't get any bigger or better than this, I can live with that."
Winn is especially pleased with Albuquerque's recently rejuvenated local ska scene which will get a chance to shine at the DWE release party on Friday. Made in Bangladesh, Half-Stache, Critically Unacclaimed and ska-reggae outfit Crazy Fool will join DWE at El Rey theatre for the all-ages show which begins at 6:30 p.m. There will also be a raffle with various DWE merchandise up for grabs. "People who aren't really familiar with ska can't appreciate it until they've seen a live show,” Winn says. "It's always a ball to have a big ska show like this."
Check out Danny Winn and the Earthlings online at dannywinnandtheearthlings.com.