As Etta James once said, “If you stick around long enough, they start giving you stuff.” Now I know exactly what she means!
Outstanding Contribution to the Development of the Jamaican Music Industry, Jamaica Federation of Musicians, 2003. I put this one first because it means the most to me. As a non-Jamaican, to have my peers in the JFM honor me like this still amazes me. It’s also the first award I got.
Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album, Toots and the Maytals, True Love, NARAS. 2005. What can I say? One of the greatest nights of my life, and it came after almost two decades of hard road work with Toots. Not only did I record with Bonnie Raitt, Trey Anastasio, and Willie Nelson (though I still haven’t met Willie, he overdubbed on our track), seven of my favorite guitarists are on the record too: Hux Brown, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Bonnie, Willie, Dougie Bryan, and Carl Harvey. (This doesn’t mean I don’t dig Trey! He is a superb guitarist and a really warm, funny guy.)
Platinum Sales Award, Rihanna, A Girl Like Me, RIAA, 2006. I’ve been a big Rihanna fan from her very first record, “Pon De Replay.” My friends Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers discovered and signed her, and I met her at their studio right before she did this record, before she became Rihanna. After meeting her I became even more of a fan; she was particularly sweet to my son Liam, who was with me at the time, and I saw her knock off a lead vocal in about half an hour without ever hearing the song before, no pitch correction required. (A shame we have to say that.) A couple of months later Carl asked me to play on a track from the album, a straight reggae song called “Selfish Girl,” and find him an authentic horn section for the same tune. I called in my homies (Kevin Batchelor, Clark Gayton, and Cedric “Im” Brooks) and we had a blast with Carl in the studio. This, of course is the record that started the delightful and charming Ms. Fenty’s ascent into boldface gossip column status with “SOS,” “Unfaithful,” and “Break It Off.” A few months later I happened to be talking with Carl on the phone and I asked if the record might go gold, and if so, did we qualify to get a gold record? He said it was definitely going gold, but we should wait until it went platinum, then put in for the award. So said, so done. Carl and I go back longer than I care to think about and I’m particularly happy that I got this award for working with his artist and company.
Gold Sales Award, Rihanna, A Girl Like Me,RIAA, 2006. See above. I have yet to file for the actual plaque, but I do qualify.
Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album, Burning Spear, Jah Is Real, NARAS. 2009. Unlike the Toots album, where I was credited as a Maytal and therefore got a cute statue and my name listed on the Grammy website, I did this record as a session player. So I don’t get a statue, but I will get a certificate of participation from NARAS if I ever get around to doing the paperwork. Since a lot of what I know about reggae guitar came from listening to Chinna Smith and Tony Chin on Burning Spear’s first Island album, this one means a lot to me too.
I’ve also been on six other albums that have been nominated for Grammys in the reggae category, including two this year. They are:
- Burning Spear, Our Music, 2006. This was the first time I ever worked with Spear, and it was magical for me.
- Shaggy, Clothes Drop, 2006. Ditto with Shaggy, a very intelligent guy and the only multi-platinum artist who ever carried my amp to my car for me after the session.
- Toots and the Maytals, Light Your Light, 2008. I’m on the Bonnie Raitt track, which was actually cut the same day as the title track of the True Love album, but took quite a while to surface.
- Shaggy, Intoxication, 2009. More fun with Shaggy and Sting (the REAL Sting), his producer.
- Monty Alexander, Harlem-Kingston Express Live!, 2011. Recorded on my third or fourth gig with the band, taken from an NPR live broadcast, this album topped the Jazz/World charts for fourteen weeks this year.
- Shaggy, Summer In Kingston, 2011. They got this out fast, we did the sessions earlier this year, and Shaggy and Sting gave both Val Douglas and me a writing credit too, voluntarily. Just about unheard of. Maximum respect!
- 11th Annual Independent Music Award for Best Live Performance, Monty Alexander, Harlem-Kingston Express Live! IMA, 2012. Well, we didn’t get a Grammy, but we got this! I’m not sure this was a reggae record (though NARAS thought it was), so this is perhaps more fitting, and certainly a lovely consolation prize. It was #1 on the jazz radio charts too. So now I’ve played on #1 reggae songs, a #1 jazz radio album, and a #1 folk album (with Natalie Merchant on, Leave Your Sleep).