Memorial Day weekend is supposed to put Americans in mind of fallen US military men and women, not induce us to recall newly immortal heroes of Bahamian music. But what else can you do when a Glenview, Illinois, garage sale offers up a $1 copy of Cyril “Dry Bread” Ferguson’s She Jump on CD? (That’d be G.B.I. 225 for the four other people out there keeping score.) Me and the guy who sold it to me both got to meet the not-forgettable Mr. Ferguson, though my guess is that, at the time, one of us was way drunker on fruity rum libations than the other.
Recorded, no doubt, by the late, great Frank Penn (though this liner note-free product neither confirms or denies that), the late, and sometimes great Dry Bread’s island souvenir disc is no less than a synth-horn, canned-beat infested tourist cabana dance party you stuffed into your carry-on, as totally goofy and steeped in goombay junkanoo rhythms as you’re sitting there imagining it probably sadly is…but it’s kind of a captivatingly rough ride. Though it was probably pressed in the 90s, listening to this makes it be whatever day it was that you were last on Grand Bahama Island. Despite myself, I’m sitting here thinking about eating conch and johnny cakes and creamed corn at a beach campfire or waiting at a Freeport bus stop for a jitney to bring me driver-only-knows-where. As did “Don’t Touch That Thing” from Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay—our survey of G.B.I. funk and soul in the 70s, some of it by Dry Bread himself—this album delves, for a chorus, into Bahamian kid myth about touching certain things and those things making you swell up: “Fool of Me” concerns practical jokers putting “graveyard dirt in a bottle hanging in the tree.” You weren’t supposed to touch said tree, lest your foot get badly inflamed. I’m pretty sure it’s all voodoo-love-potion-related in some way, but it’s darn creepy as the lyric to a tropical dance song. Two songs later, Uncle Lou falls in a well…and then keeps descending straight to Hell. Not sure what he did to deserve it.
Should we even discuss the title track, about showing a little girl roaches, frogs, spiders, and snakes and making her jump? Probably best to just tiptoe away from that one, and admit that G.B.I. product, out in the suburban Midwest wild, far from its home, borderline-listenable though it is, still fills in a corner of the G.B.I. picture we never even expected to see.
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