Artist of the Week

Reggae Album Chronicles Spiritual And Musical Journey

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Joseph IsraelStaff Report

Fayetteville native, Joseph Israel (born Joseph Fennel) releases his second album, Kingdom Road, available through digital media outlets on Aug. 27 and on his website, JosephIsrael.com. On Aug. 18, Joseph and his band Lions of Israel, which features several local musicians, will perform at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville.

The highly-anticipated release features 14 tracks that chronicle Joseph’s personal journey in his spiritual beliefs while serving to chronicle his musical evolution as a recording and performing artist. The songs on Kingdom Road have decidedly rock-driven, melodic themes, punctuated by sophisticated guitar lines, complex harmony arrangements with song structures that mirror his reggae origins as they reinvent his sound in a modern roots style.

An unlikely reggae artist, Joseph Israel was born Joseph Fennel in Oklahoma and grew up in Arkansas. Joseph was the sole reggae artist to be signed to Universal Music in recent history, which is an impressive accomplishment with the record label that is home to Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Island Records catalog. His 2007 Universal release GONE ARE THE DAYS was recorded in Jamaica at Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong studios, with legendary guitarist Earl “Chinna” Smith and producer/bassist Christopher Meredith. The album received considerable attention at radio and at retail and led to a series of festival performances and tours throughout the United States.

In the live setting, Joseph shares the stage with his wife Kristy Fennel who is also native to the area. There are two additional players in the unit forming a “power trio” of sorts along with Joseph performing guitar parts on stage throughout the sets.They include Arkansas musician, Marlon “Cat” Davis who started playing drums when he was three years old, born into a rich heritage of gospel tradition and along with Michael Walker, they formed the Gospel Sons. In 2001 Marlon became a member of the Lions of Israel Band and has been working with Joseph Israel ever since. Michael Walker of Little Rock performs soulful harmonies in the band. From a long line of gospel singers & musicians, he brings a rich tradition to the sound. Rounding out the music is Rupert McKenzie, a New York-based Jamaican bass player who is well-regarded, both as a stage performer and as a session musician.

KINGDOM ROAD includes appearances from Earl “Chinna” Smith and Chris Meredith, with select tracks recorded at Tuff Gong studios in Jamaica and at Crisp Studios in Fayetteville. The album also includes studio recording contributions from members of his current band. Accustomed to performing in an “unplugged” acoustic style over the past several years, select songs are performed in this manner lending an organic, singer songwriter energy to the release.

Joseph has toured extensively throughout the U.S., and has shared the stage, performing his songs of peace and righteousness with the likes of Luciano, Michael Franti, Earl “Chinna” Smith, Toussaint the Liberator and Matisyahu with whom he wrote the song “Away With This” which they performed together on the “Youth” tour in 2006.

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