FRIDAY, APRIL 28—CONGO SQUARE STAGE, 11:20 A.M.
“We’re in New Orleans, man.” According to leader Chris “DeRoc” DeBose, that explains a lot about the Revealers—including their hanging onto a recognizable sound after a long round of personnel changes. And especially, their being a reggae band who can take on any number of different styles, from funk to gospel and, on the new CD One World, even a touch of Mardi Gras Indians.
DeBose says the band made its decisive move a couple decades ago, when they shortened their name from the Reggae Revealers. “At the time bands like Third World and Steel Pulse were coming to town and we were opening for them, so we put our reggae material forward. That’s the foundation we come from, but we never wanted to limit ourselves. I’m a Neville Brothers kind of guy and a Frank Sinatra kind of guy, so I wouldn’t want to put us into any box.”
The new CD was a long time coming. They picked the title One World for the follow-up to their 2003 live CD, but then reality intervened—first with the death of a key band member and then Katrina, which caused additional problems for DeBose after he got home. “I stepped on a roofing nail while repairing my house after the storm. I didn’t realize I was a diabetic, and I found out the hard way—I’d always heard that diabetes causes numbness in your feet, and I had a nail stuck in the bottom of my boot, and I didn’t even feel it. So I was banged up for a couple years after that, with four operations on my foot.” Yet the band managed to make most years of Jazz Fest—this one will be their 22nd.
The latest changes have brought them closer to their original sound, with a new co-singer (Felice Guimont) adding the long-missing female voice. They’ve also recut “I Like the Sound of That,” a local hit in the late ’90s. “That phrase comes from street slang, a neighborhood ‘who dat’ kind of thing. I did an update of the lyric; after Muhammad Ali died I put him in the lyric with Martin Luther King. It’s become a favorite song of everybody’s—once you put this stuff out there in the world, it takes on a whole different personality.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is the band’s trademark positivity, which DeBose says stems from his younger days as a Marine. “That probably taught me the leadership skills to bring people together from different nationalities. Right now our drummer is a Jewish guy, our bass player is Native American, and the 6th, 7th and 9th Wards are all represented. And when I look at the crowds that’s what I see, a multicultural and multiracial thing. That’s what inspires us to write these songs.”