The biggest problem with Diojee’s The Ivory Line EP is that it’s just too darn short! This is, indeed, one fantastic sampling of music.
It’s tough to determine if the best thing about Diojee is the four-piece’s songs, or the delightful manner Jeff Brown sings them. Let’s start with the singing style, first. Brown is obviously influenced by reggae music, which is the style this Southern Maryland band first gravitated toward. However, one can also hear a little Louie Prima in his scatting vocals. It’s a jazzy feel that many times brings David Hinds of Steel Pulse to mind. If you listen to that band’s great music, particularly the True Democracy album, you might even begin to suspect that Brown and Hinds were somehow separated at birth. Or brothers from different mothers. Or something like that. Suffice it to say, Brown is a fantastic, charismatic front man.
If Brown’s fine singing wasn’t enough, the group also sports a brilliant female vocalist in Nikki Drake. The fact that her name is a feminization (intentional or otherwise) of the late great British folk genius, Nick Drake, is only one small plus side. Nikki Drake has a cute singing manner that beautifully meshes with Brown’s jazz-isms, particularly during this EP’s title track, which has an acoustic groove akin to SoCal’s Sublime. Over a rolling, bass-driving groove, subtle horns chime in, in the background and lovingly supporting this duet.
Although “The Bomb is Back” was written to describe fears caused by the Cold War in the 80s, this song is just as relevant today. When you stop and consider the craziness in the Middle East, with rogue nations like Iran having (or about to have access) to nuclear weapons, the bomb is either back or never actually went away. This is not to mention the constant missile tests in North Korea. The smartly written “The Bomb is Back” is no mere musical nostalgia, that’s for sure.
“The Murder of Joti Gaeto “ is described as a song about someone caught between the two sides of the Civil War, and has the feel of one of those great Bob Dylan songs where he finds an individual that bodily symbolizes the horrors of war. The song is built upon a Latin groove, with rapid fire drumming and equally rapid fire acoustic guitar strumming. “I am standing on the fault line of this great divide,” Brown sings at one point, perfectly summing up this character’s uncomfortable circumstances.
“Sugar Packets (Part 1)” closes this short set with a relatively happy song. Sung with staccato notes, Brown emotes nostalgically about his first brushes with love and romance as a child. It shows how Diojee can write effectively about personal experiences, just as it does with wider political and social issues.
Four great songs out of four is a really great percentage. When you score a 100% on exam in school, they award you an A. Diojee easily earns an A for this effort. They describe their roots as five white guys from Maryland, although you’d never guess that from these songs. This group has a sound that encompasses a wide variety of world music elements, which are intelligently mixed together to create a sound that’s all Diojee’s own. If you’re anything like me, you won’t be even remotely satisfied with this measly portion. Diojee is a group that needs to make full albums, perhaps even double albums. One suspects there’s a whole lot of great music in them just waiting to come out. In the meantime, pick up The Ivory Line EP and enjoy it. Comfort yourself, perhaps, with the notion that the best things come in small packages. That might keep you satisfied for a second or two.
Album: The Ivory Line EP
Review By: Dan MacIntosh
Rating: 5 Stars (out of 5)