John Parker, guitarist/producer: Combining technical ability with style, John is a consummate professional guitarist. With over 20 years of touring experience, Parker has been managing Halifax’s Long & McQuade for 12 years, where he offers a working knowledge of the latest gear and technical expertise in both live and studio recording. In addition to recording, mixing and mastering projects for dozens of Atlantic Canadian artists including Dave Gunning and Rose Vaughan, John has been co-producing alongside Andru Branch for over a decade, while playing lead guitar with their band Halfway Tree. Photo by Kevin Prinoski.
Exclaim! Magazine has published complimentary reviews of my work over the years, but it is validating to know that one of my first ever recorded songs has been named one of "Canada's Essential Reggae Tracks". "Keep On Keepin' On" embodies what it takes to persevere as an artist, and is an attestation to the concept of "less is more". I draw on many years of studying music from an orchestral perspective, and I take pride in the sometimes elaborate polyphony of my arrangements. Two and three part horn sections adorn most of my songs, but this track is sparse and I only employed three other musicians, to play drums and guitars. The simple melody repeats: "You've got to deal with Love", which is straight to the point, and the theme of all of my work. This song was the first cut on my "demo tape" back in 1995, which was picked up by Kingston Muzik in 1996, and kicked off my Juno-nominated debut album What If I Told You, released in 1998. My humble gratitude to Exclaim! Magazine for your continued support. Respect due to all my mentors over the years, too many to mention, but my eternal Love lives on for Raffa Dean and Jah D with thanks for lifting up this track with your skilled musicianship. Now I must return to the studio to continue the work in these turbulent times. Keep On Keepin' On my people ~ Andru
Drums: Tony “Raffa Dean” White
Lead guitar: Ras Kawintseb Sellassie
Rhythm guitar: Derrick “Jah D” Lambert
Vocals, keyboards and percussion: Andru Branch
Recorded at Number 9 Sound, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Engineered by Jim Zolis and Terrance Lee.
Mixed by Paul Hussey and Otto Lee Wilson at Kingston Muzik Studio, Jamaica.
Mastered by Noah Mintz.
Produced by Andru Branch.
As we continue to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of our band Halfway Tree since its creation in 1995, we wish to thank you for your continued support. 2020 has been tumultuous year, but we are doing our best to keep releasing new music and putting out positive vibrations.
Please accept our brand new single “Power To The People” as our gift to you, our fans, in hopes that it may provide some inspiration leading up to the US election. The song is a reminder that the outcome of the presidential election will have resounding socio-economic effects far beyond the US borders. Recorded, mixed and mastered within 24 hours at our home studio in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Andru Branch & Halfway Tree continue to advocate for equal rights and social justice. These are turbulent times but fortunately we have music to soothe the soul. We invite you to visit our website, where you can hear music, see videos, read our story and download music. Watch the video: https://youtu.be/EHkDbT6M27c
There are many important movements that have led us to this day, not the least of which was the Suffragette Movement, in which women fought the patriarchy and won the right to vote. If you are an American citizen, please exercise your right to vote. This is a crucial time in history/herstory. The future of the United States and indeed the political-socio-economic landscape of the world is in peril. Please do what you can with what you have to affect positive change. We depend on you just as we depend on each other. Out of many, we are one people. The planet we share is in a vulnerable position right now, but we have faith that better will come. The only constant in life is change, after all.
One Universal Love ~ Andru Branch & Halfway Tree
This is the most recent photo of Andru Branch & Halfway Tree, shot at the Halifax Public Gardens by Veronica Gutierrez in the fall of 2019. From left to right are Seth Voliere (guitar), James Shaw (saxophone), Andrew Brown (bass), Andru Branch (vocals, keyboards and percussion), Ibiko Pelle (drums), Johnny Parker (guitar) and Andrew Jackson (trombone).
It has been such an honour and such a joy to play with these wonderful and talented musicians. We began rehearsing with this lovely young drummer from Antigua, who was studying at Saint Mary's University. He truly lifted up the sound of the band with his super steady groove. We rehearsed a powerful new set of material in preparation for this summer's festival gigs. Enter the pandemic. Slowly but surely, each gig was cancelled, including Halifax's annual Reggae Splash, which we look forward to every year. The day before the gig our beloved 'new' drummer Ibiko boarded a plane to Antigua, to shelter in place with his family. This was hard to take, after rehearsing a show for six months that we never got to perform. However, Ibiko laid down three awesome tracks while he was here with us, two of which are nearing completion, and the third is a work in progress. Please stay tuned as we are super excited to share the new music with you. Join our mailing list to get the latest updates. In the mean time stay safe, listen to some music, watch some videos and play your part to end racism so that we can create a brighter future.
Thank you for your unwavering support over the past 25 years. Our 25th Anniversary album 'The Singles' is available here. Whether you are a new or long time fan, you are so important to us and we are very grateful. Please continue to share I & I music with your friends and loved ones. One Universal Love ~ Andru Branch & Halfway Tree
Andru Branch & Halfway Tree are joined by the lovely Jhamiela Smith-Dunn and Kristine Kovacevik on the Halifax Common for the annual Jamaican Independence Day celebration in 2018. Pictured here, from left to right, are Jhamiela Smith-Dunn (vocals), Andrew Brown (bass), Myles Cornish (trumpet), Teddy Skiffington (drums), Johnny Parker (guitar), Andru Branch (vocals, keyboards and percussion), Andrew Jackson (trombone) and Kristine Kovacevik (vocals).
My lifelong friend Tomaz Jardim introduced me to Earl "Chinna" Smith in 1996, back when we were recording my debut album at Kingston Muzik Studio. Chinna leant his formidable talent to two songs on the album and has welcomed me to his home ever since. His front porch, affectionately known as "Inna De Yard", is a cultural hub that attracts all walks of life from all around the globe, as long as it is in the name of music. Anything else is "fuckery", for which Chinna has little tolerance. I always ensure to bring our mutual friend Seeco down to this mecca at St. Andrew Park for a visit. One of my fondest memories was of a reunion of sorts, where I carried Studio One "bassie" Brian Atkinson down to see Chinna, to great fanfare. The humble Studio One bass player was received with due reverence for his massive contribution to the foundation of reggae music. Joined by several of the many musicians who are present Inna De Yard on any given day, we jammed a whole back catalogue of early reggae hits from back in the day, well into the night.
It was there, Inna De Yard, where I met Chinna's daughter Jhamiela for the first time. She carried herself like an Empress; smooth and confident. Neither of us could have foreseen at the time that we would go on to play together in Canada. I started seeing her around Halifax, on the arm of a skinny, white rocker named Adrian Dunn. From a musical family in Cape Breton, Adrian and Jhamiela eventually got married and formed a reggae outfit she dubbed Jah'Mila. It was a welcome opportunity for me to play my beloved percussion instruments when she invited me to join her group of premiere reggae musicians from around the city, including bass player Alec Frith and saxophonist Sean Weber, who both played with Halfway Tree somewhere along the way. Jah'Mila's growing fanbase has embraced her for her sweet yet commanding vocal prowess, much like her personality. It brings me great joy to support her and to share our musical journey together, contributing to the spiritual upliftment that reggae music brings everywhere it resounds.
We are here to learn and grow and our soul purpose is to give and share Love. Through its persistent trials and tribulations, Life continually challenges us to grow. My Mom used to say "the only constant in life is change". This sometimes means having to replace musicians and subsequently adjusting to new band mates. My close pal, co-producer and right hand man Johnny Parker (front right), frequently quips: "Welcome to the way it is." It is a continual reminder to accept change. The ever-evolving lineup may change, but the song remains the same.
I will let this quote from Exclaim! Magazine do the talking for this photo: “The six-piece roots collective pack an authentic punch, an earthy sensibility and an ear for hypnotic dub grooves. They show clear influence from the Wailers, Burning Spear and Lee "Scratch" Perry...Branch and crew nail the technical, spiritual and music elements of an instrumental sound that both entrances and inspires.” Thank you to Niki Davison for this beautiful portrait of Andru Branch & Halfway Tree, posing in front of the Halifax Common in 2017. From left to right are Andrew MacKelvie (saxophone), Andrew Jackson (trombone), Duane Khodra (rhythm guitar), Andru Branch (vocals, keyboards and percussion), Andrew Brown (bass), Johnny Parker (lead guitar and backing vocals) and Teddy Skiffington (drums).
I love this photo of Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, at home in his back yard in the countryside outside of Spanish Town in 2017, where we were shooting footage for the "My Jamaican Weed" video. Horsemouth is one of Jamaica's principal foundation drummers, whose raw style and impeccable timing enhanced many recordings. A member of Soul Syndicate band alongside Earl "Chinna" Smith, Leroy has played with countless Jamaican artists, including the honourable Winston Rodney aka Burning Spear. Originally backed by the Soul Brothers band featuring Jackie Mittoo, Brian Atkinson and Joe Isaacs at Studio One in the mid-60s, Burning Spear recruited Horsemouth to play on many of his most beloved recordings, including his signature album Marcus Garvey.
Along the path I was able to reunite these foundation reggae musicians, after more than 50 years. On the left is "Alvin 'Seeco' Patterson", born Francisco Willie, in Cuba in 1930. He would become Bob Marley's closest friend, and go on to tour the world with Bob Marley & The Wailers on percussion. On the right is Brian "Bassie" Atkinson who, alongside keyboard player Jackie Mittoo, co-wrote many of the bass lines that would go on to define the genre. I am proud and honoured to call these reggae pioneers two of my best friends, each of whom had a profound and lasting impact on what we call reggae music today.
Following the Halifax Jazz Festival gig, where Halfway Tree opened for The Wailers, Aston "Family Man Barrett invited me to sit in with Bob Marley's world famous band when they returned to perform at the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival in Fredericton, New Brunswick. It was such a treat to play with such reggae royalty again. Loving his camo shorts over his camo pants!!
From as far back as I can remember I have been motivated by rhythm. My beloved friend Raffa Dean used to invite me on stage to play my growing collection of percussion instruments by his side at Toronto's famous Bamboo Club in the 90s. Playing out of time was not an option. He became a mentor to me and taught me how to play all the many variations of reggae music. Raffa was the backbone of the reggae scene in Toronto, where he played with more bands than you could count. Two of the main bands he commanded were Livestock and Hit Squad, the main backing bands that supported the many Jamaican artists that came to Toronto to perform. Following his lead, I went on to back such reggae legends as Gregory Isaacs and Glen Washington.
Over the years I have had the great fortune to work with many of Jamaica's most celebrated singers and players of instruments, at all of the major Jamaican festivals, including Rebel Salute, Reggae Sumfest, Sting and Reggae Sunsplash, back in the day. Many opportunities were born out of my recording sessions at Kingston Muzik, where I met the SANE Band (Sounds Against Negative Expression). My respect to brothers Joseph and Jeffrey Graham, who welcomed me into the fold, to play and tour with the Warrior Love Band, who have since relocated to Toronto.
For nostalgia's sake, here is a list of some of the Jamaican artists I have had the pleasure to play percussion with over the years: Luciano, Sizzla, Cocoa Tea, Freddie McGregor, Marcia Griffiths, Junior Reid, Richie Spice, Tony Rebel, Queen Ifrica, Jah 9, Shuga, Etana, Gramps Morgan, George Nooks, Christopher Martin, Nature, Fantan Mojah, Bugle, Exco Levi, Warrior King, Natural Black, Wayne Marshall, Vybz Kartel, Sean Paul, Yellowman, Frankie Paul, Everton Blender, The Mighty Diamonds, The Congos, The Heptones, Israel Vibration, Johnny Osbourne, Max Romeo, Admiral Bailey, Edi Fitzroy, Johnny Clarke, Leroy Gibbons, Thriller U, Andrew Tosh, Brinsley Forde and of course, The Wailers (above).
Andru Branch & Halfway Tree performed as a ten-piece band at the Halifax Jazz Festival in 2013. We opened for The Wailers on a hot July night with "Somebody That I Used To Know". In the front row, on the left are Mary-Grace and Selah Koile, whose sisterly vocals have uplifted many of my recordings over the years. Along the back row from left to right are my close friend Shane Delorey (repeater drum), my co-producer and right hand man Johnny Parker (lead guitar) and Inti Tzirari Tlatoani Gonzalez Sierra (funde drum). To my left are long-time drummer Jerome Thomas, outstanding reggae bass player Alec Frith, who has consistently supported the band over the years, my dear friend Duane Khodra (rhythm guitar) and Shauna DeGruchy (trombone). Thanks to Mike Phang for the wonderful photo.