Tomorrow, on June 15th, Mystic Bowie’s Talking Dreads will release their debut 13-track album. The group offers infectiously energetic and jubilant takes on classics from the Talking Heads’ catalog, imbuing them with new life through the lens of roots reggae, ska, and lover’s rock (also known as “romantic reggae”). Since the project’s debut at High Times Music Festival on the beach of Negril in late 2015, Mystic Bowie’s Talking Dreads has quickly become a fan favorite, performing over 100 of their electrifying shows across North America.
Mystic Bowie’s Talking Dreads is headed by the charismatic singer, Mystic Bowie, a Jamaican-born singer and performer with a long-standing history interwoven with the Talking Heads. Mystic has been a close friend and colleague of Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth, founding members of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club—Mystic joined the Tom Tom Club as a singer in 1996, going on to perform with the band for over 20 years as a singer. In fact, his idea for Talking Dreads was inspired on tour with Frantz and Weymouth, as the two discussed proposals to reunite Talking Heads and do a reunion tour.
The project has gotten the emphatic blessing from Frantz and Weymouth—plus Seymour Stein, the music industry mogul who signed the Talking Heads to Sire Records, under the condition that Talking Dreads include a rendition of “Love, Building On Fire”, which inspired him to sign the Talking Heads back in the day—and both of the original Talking Heads’ musicians consult on the project. However, what sets Mystic Bowie’s Talking Dreads apart from other Talking Heads “cover bands” is its authenticity, ensuring the band stays true to its Jamaican roots while also honoring the famed new-wave American band headed by David Byrne.
Mystic Bowie’s Talking Dreads boasts an impressive lineup of beloved reggae musicians, including vocalist Freddie McGregor, guitarist Ernest Ranglin, singer Tarrus Riley, and saxophonist Dean Fraser, as well as drummer Kirk Bennett and guitarist Lincoln Thomas. The only non-Jamaican member of the band is Cindy Wilson of the B-52s, given that she perfectly evokes Talking Heads’ new-wave vibe.
As Mystic explained,
I decided to go with all Jamaican musicians because there was always the risk that if I worked with American musicians who were big Talking Heads fans, they might lean towards the original style and melodies, and I wanted to make the album authentically Jamaican. So I featured a lot of these artists from the island and legitimized the entire process to be accepted and understood by Jamaicans. The rest of the world knows Talking Heads, so they’re going to catch on with the lyrics easier. In the Caribbean, you have to give them that thing that’s going to attract them to it, and that was their cultural genre attached to these songs. In the studio, I would make sure everything was authentically Jamaican, but also make sure it was true to the Talking Heads’vibe, I would run ideas past Frantz and Weymouth.
Recorded at Jamaica’s famed Barry O’Hare Studios in Ocho Rios, Mystic Bowie’s Talking Dreads’ debut album features 13 songs that mix the joyous energy of Carribean music with the beloved sound of Talking Heads. The group offers up their smile-inducing takes on fan-favorite Talking Heads tracks like “Psycho Killer”, “Burning Down The House”, “This Must Be The Place”, “Pulled Up”, “Crosseyed and Painless”, “Heaven”, and “Houses In Motion”. However, the album also contains renditions of Big Brother & The Holding Company’s “Piece of My Heart”, which originally featured Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead’s “Shakedown Street”, both of which are welcome additions to the collection.
Mystic Bowie’s Talking Dreads debut album will be released tomorrow, June 15th. Make sure to check it out when it’s released, because you’re not going to want to miss out on this unique celebration of reggae and Talking Heads—or purchase it as a double ultra-clear vinyl set, which is available online here and in select record stores nationwide. Check out the band’s first two singles from the album, “Once In A Lifetime” and “Life During Wartime” below, to get a taste of what to expect. You can also check out a listing of the band’s upcoming tour below, to see the band’s magic live.