Fighting Gravity


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Following on from their 1991 debut Bobsled, the group returned with Shishkabob the following year. Back then, the Virginian band were still known as Boy O Boy, a septet with a distinctively celebratory take on ska. Obviously influenced by Two Tone, the group keep to that scene's rocksteady tempos, upbeat sound, and angsty themes. But even while looking back, Fighting Gravity sound little like their predecessors, at best one could compare their easygoing atmospheres and Schiavone McGee's lovely, mild vocals to the English Beat, the carousing organ to Madness, and their joie de vivre to the Selector. However, that tells one little about their own styling. The band's sense of humor comes to the fore on their exuberant instrumental "Barber of Skaville," where trumpeter James Pennington struts his stuff while the rest of the group oom and pah with wild abandon. That number's a wild ride galloping between Oktoberfest and a Seville salon, "Purple Ska," in contrast, drenches Jamaica in psychedelia with the band's rousing version of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze." Capturing the original's funky sound, Gravity splatter their take with brass, along with David C. Triano's magnificently soaring guitar and Eric Lawson's splendidly big, boisterous organ. Lawson's piano skills are showcased on "Darling," while he pumps away with sheer abandon on "All I Need Is a Holiday," with Triano getting in some searing licks of his own. The guitarist is equally versatile, as adept at reggae riffing as rocking out, and his sparkling guitar styling on "Parallel Parking" is an absolute delight, while Lawson simultaneously showcases his fabulous jazz skills.

Across it all, the exceedingly tight team of bassist David Peterson and drummer Mike Boyd create infectious rhythms that power the entire set. However, it's the wonderful interplay of brass, guitar and piano/organ that define the group's sound, along with the band's marvelous mix of subtle and supple styles.

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