Righteous selves: Band mixes reggae, other musical stylings in ‘diverse’ sound

Story by Chris Graham 

Chris Woodson likes to “tell stories.” Which is why he’s a fan of, of all things, country music.
“I like country music because you can tell stories. Every song is a story. Some guy, a regular Joe like you or I, wrote the song in his hometown, and then some big guy sings it. But it was written in a hometown by somebody like me or you dealing with everyday problems,” said Woodson, who is not a country artist, actually, but instead is solidly in reggae, not that genre matters. 

I say that because Woodson, the lead in the Righteous Friendz Band, which released a new self-titled CD last month, is hard to classify using one genre. “The music is really universal, really diverse,” said Woodson, whose meanderings pull from hip hop, rap, reggae, blues, funk and country. Woodson cites among his musical influences Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristoferson and Ray Charles.

The new CD is Woodson’s third, and the first with Righteous Friendz, which got going as a sort of evolution in Woodson’s career. His early CDs were heavily hip hop-influenced, but Woodson grew away from his hip hop base into wanting to do something a bit more rich stylistically.

Righteous Friendz grew out of a project that Woodson started aimed at building a new musical sound.

“We’ve had people come and go the past couple of years. I’m the only one here who was here at the beginning,” said Woodson, a 1995 graduate of Wilson Memorial High School in Augusta County.

The first song on the CD, “Way Back,” is Woodson as country-music storyteller. Two other songs caught my attention. On “People,” “The message is that we’ve all got to do something, and I’m one of those people, too. Sometimes people sing a song, and it’s like, they’re singing it to the rest of the world, and they’re perfect. With ‘People,’ I’m saying, Yeah, we’ve got some things to do, and I’m talking to me, too,” Woodson said.

My personal favorite on the CD is “Colors.” It’s apparently a Woodson favorite, too. “This is a song that puts goose bumps on me every time I hear it. It deals with rain, sun, and what they both create, the rainbow, and about who created it, God. Wherever you’re from, whatever language you speak, it’s the same word, God, just different languages,” Woodson said.


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