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Keep Houston Press Free
4

Ryan Scroggins and the Trenchtown Texans

Ryan Scroggins was Los Skarnales's keyboardist, and from the sound of the Trenchtown Texans' debut, also their resident ska fiend. Aside from side forays into dub ("Hellbender"), Django-esque jazz ("The Alligator") and ska/honky-tonk hybrid "Into the Light" — featuring Sean Reefer on vocals and the record's most political lyrics — the vibe here is traditional ska/rocksteady. It is, quite simply, a joy, dominated by the interplay between Scroggins's playful organ leads and Nathan Smith's sinuous sax, with tasteful accents from guitarist Jeremy Pena. Trenchtown Texas reminds me both of Jamaican originals from the likes of the Skatalites and the rowdier, more traditional songs by British second-wave ska kings the Specials, beer-soaked numbers like "Nite Klub," "Monkey Man" and "Little Bitch." It's also hyper-atmospheric — stitched together with phone messages from band members, Ten Commandments and Dracula sound bites, croaking frogs and other sounds of the swamp. (Scroggins is studying to be a herpetologist.) While Scroggins is not the most memorable singer around, the band's backing vocals are excellent. This is one of the better ska records I've heard, and one of the year's top local releases in any genre. It distills ska's very essence, making Trenchtown Texas one moonlit, warm-breeze-bathed, rum-punch-soaked, weed-pungent hurricane party of a town.

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