by Petula Caesar
Femi The DriFish and The Out of Water eXperience (OWX) has never been a traditional kind of music group. I have enjoyed listening to their sound and watching their stage show develop. Their genre defying music will require them to face the challenges of the independent artist grind. To make matters more complicated, when asked what kind of music they play, they will have to explain what “lyrical soul hip hop funk rock” is. The past two years have been a period of great growth for OWX, and the band has more fully fleshed out their sound and style. The result of having more focus and direction is “OWX LIVE!”, a fun and energetic collection of live performances of OWX’s most popular songs. The album fills a very specific need for the group – since their inception OWX has developed a reputation for their adrenalin pumping, hand clapping, hard partying, having a good time, high energy live performances. Unfortunately, this wasn’t reflected on the group’s first two studio recorded releases. “The Clown With No Circus” and “Mad As A Hatter”. “OWX LIVE!” gives fans a recording more reflective of what OWX is like at a show. It captures the party spirit of their performances, which is one of the most important parts of what OWX does.
One thing I immediately noticed about “OWX LIVE!” is Femi and company have incorporated more elements of rock music than they once did. This is a very natural evolution of the band’s sound, which always had rock music elements, but now those elements are more pronounced. The funk, soul, and hip hop are still present, but the rock influences often take center stage. This shift makes sense, since front man Femi’s first musical love affairs were with rock acts from his days growing up in England, when bands like Queen and The Police reigned supreme. But it does create an interesting paradox for OWX; all of the members of the band are black, and while they all are genuine fans of rock, people of color traditionally haven’t been successful in that genre. Some might think the paradox is some kind of gimmick, but it really genuinely reflects what OWX is. It is very organic for them.
There have been various incarnations of OWX as far as its members go, but the band has finally been able to nail down its cast of characters (Femi – Lead Lyricist; Alexis Joyce –Vocals; Chuck The Mad Ox – Beatbox, hand percussion and vocals; MoRece – Keyboard; Tony Love – Lead Guitar; KP – Bass; Spyda — Drums.) The chemistry between its seven current members is stronger than it has ever been. They truly enjoy playing together, and they play well together, better than many bands that have been around much longer. “OWX LIVE!” allows you to hear that chemistry in the music, which adds another element of excellent to the album’s sound.
Eight of the nine tracks on “OWX LIVE!” had been recorded previously, while the song “Feet On The Ground” makes its first appearance on an OWX project. It gets vocal assists from Femi’s 5th L partner David “Native Son” Ross and lyricists Wombatt 55 and Berkley Priest, and is the strongest representation of OWX’s hip hop influences. Some songs stick pretty closely to their original sound, but others are reworked in the live setting. The “OWX LIVE!” versions of “Love Is…” and “Representing Lovely” departed the most from their original sound and demonstrate OWX’s affinity for rock, but the new versions have a searing, otherworldly intensity that was absent in their original form. Best of all, all of the vocals are extremely clear, which isn’t always the case with live musical recordings, where the instrumentation can muffle the vocals.
“OWX LIVE!” is this group’s strongest project to date. It has a cohesiveness that shows how much hard word this band has done in perfecting themselves. It definitely conveys the live show feel well, and makes the listener want to see a show as soon as possible. It represents the band quite lovely, and is required listening/purchasing for anyone who respects, admires and supports good music from great independent artists. You can purchase “OWX LIVE!” online at www.anartkeymusic.com, or pick up a copy at one of OWX’s upcoming CD release shows in DC or Baltimore.
Hear more from Femi about the growth and development of OWX in Speakerbox Magazine’s latest edition of “The Red Couch Interviews”.