As a former four stringer myself, I’m always intrigued by the versatility and power of the bass guitar. The fact that I could be generously described as a low-slung, root note, rock chugger says as much about my choice of band as it does my dedication to the instrument. But when put in the right pair of hands, the bass guitar can be a delicate and dexterous instrument. Danny Merriman is the right pair of hands.
He’s a groover and tends to lean towards reggae and ska sounds, but not always, the natural setting for a bassist who wants to make the most of his instrument and DNA-4 is his latest collection of songs.
I Want You So kicks us off, a lilting pop-reggae piece, anchored by his ornate and creative bass lines and soulful, skanking guitar and threaded through with Mediterranean acoustica. It’s a song full of optimism and life-affirming love, as well as a slight whiff of nostalgia, and as I sit here writing this with the sun streaming through the window and a cool breeze in the air, it seems the perfect song with which to welcome summer in. Timing is everything.
As I said above, he does have his core genres that he likes to work in but Set Yourself Free isn’t one of them. In fact, you would be hard pushed to see where it does fit in, not that it matters these days, no one, except lazy journalists (guilty,) is bothered by genres anyway. Again, warm and wandering bass is present but it is the frantic beats that dominate and the whole thing comes off like a sort of post-punk funk. The sort of thing that The Pop Group excelled at…and A Certain Ratio didn’t. And Danny’s voice feels perfect for this sort of experimental cross-pollination.
A Reggae View, aptly enough, is exactly that, a deep dive into its traditional sounds, leaning on its seventies core as much as creating his own modern tones and textures. The final offering is Keep On Keeping On, and again it leans towards the more experimental and playful side of his music. Based on heavy grooves and dance-infused percussion, there is a spacious and creative middle ground through which he weaves beguiling electronica to great effect.
As always, its a cool collection of music which neatly shows the two sides of Danny’s music. On the one hand, he can make modern music which fits neatly into the genres inspired by Jamaican roots pioneers and make it well. But, for my money, it is when he lets himself push his own limits, when he begins to hop generic boundaries and push at sonic barriers that he really comes into his own.