Joseph Israel

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It isn't often that an Oklahoma-born white musician earns praise for his approach to roots reggae in Jamaica, but singer and songwriter Joseph Israel is a pretty singular guy, and his blend of soul, jazz, folk, world, and reggae, while not exactly innovative, is certainly infectious. Born Joseph Montgomery Fennel in Tulsa, OK, Israel grew up listening to reggae music and fell early under the spell of classic artists like Bob Marley and Burning Spear. By the time he was a teenager, his parents began taking him on regular visits to Jamaica, which only intensified Israel's interest in the music and, over time, his interest in Rasta culture as well. Back in the States, now living in Arkansas, Israel began to emulate the music he loved and formed the roots band Kepha in 2000. The group built a loyal fan base and self-released a CD before folding. Israel then formed the Lions of Israel, and the new band began opening for Jamaican acts touring through the area, including a show for Ziggy Marley, where the Lions of Israel (and Israel in particular) caught the ear of Marley's bassist, Chris Meredith. Meredith took Israel to Kingston to record at Tuff Gong Studios with some of the island's best session musicians, including Earl "Chinna" Smith, Uziah "Sticky" Thompson, and Dean Fraser. The resulting album, Gone Are the Days, which featured duets with Luciano and Mikey General, was released on Israel's own Lions of Israel imprint in 2005. The album, with a pair of bonus tracks added, was re-released in 2007 by Universal Music Enterprises' New Door Records. - all music guide

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