1/  Road To Axum                               (Werner,David,Dugan)          5.34
  2/  Concrete Sunrise                           (Werner,David,Dugan)          5.23
  3/  Akademikus Du Umbeigu                      (Werner,David,Dugan)          5.10
  4/  SJD3                                       (Werner,David,Dugan)          6.35
  5/  Employees Must Wash Your Hands             (Werner,David,Dugan)          6.10
  6/  Instrument of the Trinity                  (Werner,David,Dugan)          6.29
  7/  Healing of the Nations                     (Werner,David,Dugan)          5.48
  8/  Clean Escape (The Crew Is Here)            (Werner,David,Dugan)          6.09

          Recorded at Orange Music Sound Studio, West Orange, New Jersey
          Engineer: Robert Musso
          Assistant: James Dellatacoma
          Produced and mixed by Bill Laswell
          Artwork & Design: John Brown at Cloud Chamber
          Mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at Turtle Tone Studio, NYC
Josh Werner: bass, keyboards; Aaron Dugan: guitars, sounds; Jonah David: drums, percussion.

          2006 - ROIR (USA), RUSLP 8297 (Vinyl)
          2006 - ROIR (USA), RUSCD 8297 (CD)


Roots Tonic is a dub trio who've gained fame as the backing band for Hasidic Jewish reggae artist Matisyahu, but on their debut album, Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell, they show that they have what it takes to stand on their own (granted, Laswell is there too). This is a welcome return to old school dub, the rootsy stuff that King Tubby, Lee "Scratch" Perry, and others crafted so proficiently in the '70s and '80s. The best tracks on Meets Bill Laswell go beyond the basic drum and bass sound that bogs down "Road to Axum" and "JD3." The bass line of "Concrete Sunrise," for instance, bounces along nicely, and is augmented by violent cymbals, digital blips, chimes, blowing winds, and all manner of crashing sounds that would make Perry smile. "Akademikus Du Umbeigu" features the strongest groove, an urgent, almost military drum and bass with staccato keys and a rolling guitar that all builds to a marvelous crescendo. The curiously titled "Employees Must Wash Your Hands" (Are they washing their own hands, or are they washing mine?) propels with piercing drums and snippets of electric guitar for dramatic flair, along with just enough "et cetera" to keep things lively. For the first 8 seconds of "Healing of the Nations," I thought that something was wrong with my CD player, but such is the wonder of dub: taking sounds you wouldn't necessarily want to hear in real life and crafting an offbeat musical mural. In the capable hands of veteran producer/electronica pioneer Laswell, this album does this well -- although such lengthy tracks tend to drone a bit by the end, making me wish that there were 12 four-minute songs instead of 8 six-minute songs.  You can listen to the album at

3 out of 5

courtesy of the Reggae Reviews website


The First Rule Of Dub is that every dub LP you put on your turntable or insert into your CD player will make you want to listen to either Lee Scratch Perry’s masterpiece Super Ape, or Augustus Pablo and King Tubby’s King Tubbys Meets Rockers Uptown. They are the yardsticks by which instrumental dub is inevitably judged, and most LPs simply don’t have a hope of measuring up.

The sticker on the front of this Roots Tonic collaboration with one-time Public Image Limited producer Laswell proudly proclaims it to be “A revolutionary sound clash!!!… a futurist space/dub transmission.” While the third track, “Akademikus Du Umbeigu” uses a seriously groovy dancehall rhythm, there’s little else on display to mark this album out as being either particularly revolutionary or futuristic, apart from touches like the mobile phone samples in the album’s opener “Road to Axum.” It’s firmly in roots territory, and none the worse for it.

The playing throughout is immaculate. Bass player Josh Werner is rock solid, and is, quite properly, the focus throughout. His lines are given a pleasingly cavernous sound by Laswell’s production, which is at its best on "JD3." Use of the guitar in the mix is sparing, and occasionally unconventional — there are some lovely lyrical passages of sustained chordal work here and there.

The only real drawback is that the sound isn’t quite organic enough. I can forgive the sine-wave keyboards, and the slight lapses in taste like the awful and distracting (possibly synthesized?) cowbells throughout “Employees Must Wash Your Hands” and the inexplicably out-of-place twiddly guitar bit near the beginning of the same song, but part of me just wants the whole record to feel a bit looser, a bit more relaxed, and a bit less urgent.

But despite that, it’s a fine piece of work; Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell is an enjoyably atmospheric, bass-heavy excursion into dub. It would be interesting to hear a further collaboration; there’s a good chance that if these guys worked together again, they might just produce something to rival Super Ape. Thoroughly recommended.

Stuart Estell (courtesy of the Blogcritics website)


You may have already heard Roots Tonic. In fact, you may love Roots Tonic and not even know it. Roots Tonic is Hasidic reggae superstar Matisyahu's band. Matisyahu's star has risen dramatically in this past year, culminating in the recent release of Youth on Sony/Epic (currently #4 on Billboard's Top 200) and the certification of Live at Stubbs as a Gold Record. One cannot underestimate the importance of Roots Tonic to Matisyahu's success. Roots Tonic bassist Josh Werner co-writes many of Matisyahu's songs, and Roots Tonic brings those songs to stage, to record and to life, making them pop with the drama and dynamics you'll hear on this album.

It is no coincidence that world class bassist and producer Bill Laswell is involved in this project. For one, it is Laswell who produced Matisyahu's Youth. Laswell, the world music genre-fusing genius, has worked with so many notable artists: Mick Jagger, Afrika Bambaataa, Yoko Ono, Brian Eno, Fela Kuti, John Zorn, Peter Gabriel, George Clinton, Herbie Hancock, Iggy Pop, Laurie Anderson, Motorhead, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sly & Robbie, Swans, Last Poets, and has remixed the work of Santana, Bob Marley & Miles Davis. As one writer puts it, "Bill Laswell is god. Can you prove he's not?" He is a true maverick and a perfect match for Roots Tonic and Matisyahu's blend of reggae, hip hop, soul and traditional Jewish music. Their chemistry was so perfect, in fact, that after the Youth sessions were completed, Laswell invited Roots Tonic back to his Orange Studios to record this album, Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell, which is NOT to be confused with the dub version of Matisyahu's Youth.

With no Matisyahu, Roots Tonic was forced to stand and deliver on an album without vocals or lyrics on which to rely. Deliver they did. With Laswell serving as studio lion Lee "Scratch" Perry to Roots Tonic's Aggravators, Josh, Jonah and Aaron have created a living, breathing disc of instrumental reggae, as funky as, say, the classic "Macka Dub" by the Barrett Brothers (Aston "Family Man" Barrett & Carlton Barrett, The Wailers' rhythm section). The grooves are so loose and lively you can tell they were having a blast recording. At the mixing board, Laswell economically weaves in everything from synth stabs to phone touch tones to unrecognizable sound splatters. He stays out of the way of the bass, and heaps echo on the drums and guitar, allowing the high end to spiral out from the music.

Dub as a genre always seems to be making a comeback. Its influence is consistently heard in other forms of music from Radiohead to Missy Elliot. But, judging by the surge of interest in and activity by bands like Heavyweight Dub Champion, Goathead, Dub Nomads, LA's Future Pigeon, to the reunited Systemwide, to Roots Tonic labelmates Dub Trio, Dr Israel and 10 Ft Ganja Plant, American Dub is currently very fertile musical ground. This spring, expect Roots Tonic's popularity to bloom with the release of this album, plus live Matisyahu and solo dates. There is even talk of Roots Tonic opening for Matisyahu.

courtesy of the Brainwashed website