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The Wailers bringing legacy sound to Iowa City concert
Reggae band touring with new music from ‘One World’
Bob Marley and The Wailers set the standard for reggae during the ’70s.
Marley’s tunes are poignant, rousing and at times hypnotic. “Concrete Jungle,” “Buffalo Soldier” and “Three Little Birds” are just some of the mellow but anthemic songs, which catapulted Marley to legendary status.
Shortly after he died in 1981, Wailers bassist Aston “Familyman” Barrett continued to tour and record. The band hit the road for much of the next few years, but called it a day after drummer Carlton “Carly” Barrett was murdered in his Jamaica home in 1987.
However, Barrett continued The Wailers in 1989, and the group has been active ever since. Today’s band is coming to the Englert Theatre in Iowa City on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.
If you go
What: The Wailers
Where: Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Tickets: $38 general admission, $20 students, englert.org/events/
Band’s website: thewailers.com/
“We have to keep the music alive,” drummer/band leader Aston Barrett Jr. said by phone from Albuquerque. “It’s our job to play the songs for Uncle Bob and Uncle Carlton. It’s an honor to play this music.”
Barrett Jr., 32, was born the year after his father formed The Wailers.
“But the music is in my blood,” he said. “There is nothing like it. What we do isn’t easy, since there is great responsibility when you play the music of Marley and The Wailers.”
Barrett's father has taught the various musicians, who have joined the band over the years, how to play the classic tunes in the correct manner.
“It’s of the most utmost importance to do that,” Barrett Jr. said. “My dad does things a certain way. He knows how things should be and he demands cooperation.”
That includes informing his son that he should leave his initial instrument behind.
“I originally played bass, but my dad told me that I should be a drummer like Uncle Carlton,” Barrett Jr. said. “He said that I remind him of Uncle Carlton. He said that I have Uncle Carlton’s personality, so I am the drummer of this band, but I also do other things.”
Barrett Jr. plays bass, keyboards and also sings throughout The Wailers’ latest album, “One World.” Vocalist Mitchell Brunings, guitarist Wendel Ferraro, keyboardist Andres Lopez, bassist Owen “Dreadie” Reid and vocalists Tamara Barnes and Anne-Marie Thompson round out The Wailers, who worked on the album produced by Emilio Estefan.
“I'm close with the entire Estefan family,” Barrett Jr. said. “I’m tight with their daughter Emily, and I have a lot of respect for Emilio.”
Barrett Jr. impresses while singing the catchy “What a Shame.”
“I enjoy singing the song because it reminds me of my father, who is a such a nice man,” Barrett Jr. said. “He’s a family man.”
So does Barrett Sr., who is retired, lives up to his “Familyman” nickname?
“Completely,” Barrett Jr. said. “He’s always looked out for his children. He taught us how to be respectful and to do the right thing. And he taught us about how powerful the music is. He told me that I was chosen to play this music. It’s something I don’t take for granted.
“I’ve played with other recording artists, like Lauryn Hill, Julian Marley, and I won a Grammy with Damian ”Gong“ Marley but I wasn’t built to work with other people. I’m built for running things, and now that my father is retired, I have this band. It takes a lot (out) of you, but I do what I can to be at my best.”
To stay focused, Barrett Jr. has a daily regimen he follows religiously.
“What I like to do is run on a treadmill and I meditate,” he said. “I also read the Bible. All of that keeps me grounded. This is a demanding life. You have to be in great shape physically and mentally in order to give the fans what they deserve.
“Not everyone realizes that it’s a privilege to be a musician. We understand that in our band.”