By Gabe Meline
As the final embers of this year’s Reggae Rising festival burn to ash and as the last guitar upstroke and downbeat bass line ring out over Dimmick Ranch, there’s still plenty of reason–not simply botanical–for reggae fans to stick around Northern California this week. In an unexplainable stroke of the patently absurd, the Twinkle Brothers, a legendary four-decades-deep institution from Jamaica’s shores, were absent from this years’ festival lineup. The oversight of Norman and Ralston Grant, who have recorded over 60 albums with the likes of Lee “Scratch” Perry and Leslie Kong, is somewhat remedied this week in an appearance at the Last Day Saloon in Santa Rosa.
Having emerged in Kingston singing competitions in the early ’60s, just as Jamaica received its independence from Great Britain, the Twinkle Brothers’ sound is charged by the formative years of reggae music; the early soul influence in the Ralstons’ famous harmonies comes from the same sources that elevated the Heptones and the Melodians. But the Twinkle Brothers remained current musically, and by 1982, the year of their famous performance of “When I Threw the Comb Away” at Reggae Sunsplash, they’d formed a powerhouse band, anchored by the 10-ton bass of Derrick Brown and augmented with numerous backup singers (the same group also recorded the Twinkles’ highpoint, Countrymen, in 1980). The alchemy is energizing, and even today, in concert, Norman Ralston is in constant motion, either pacing the stage or walking in place like a stimulated televangelist eager to get his message across.
“Remember, there is not just one type of people in this world,” Ralston said in a recent interview. “It’s a melting pot, so people have to learn to live with one another, with your neighbors and brothers and sisters.” That sounds like perfect advice for a huge festival attended by thousands of people squinting at a faraway stage in the middle of the redwood forest. For the few hundred still in town, the chance to see the Twinkle Brothers in a small club should be a breath of fresh air. Unless, of course, the place is hotboxed.
The Twinkle Brothers perform with Sol Horizon and DJ Bob Slayton this Thursday, Aug. 9, at the Last Day Saloon. 120 Fifth St., Santa Rosa. 9:30pm. $20. 707.545.2343.