By the time Riki Rocksteady is finished describing his musical background and influences, he has mentioned virtually every style of music short of country and classical.
Jump blues, Caribbean, rock, straight blues, reggae, boogie, jazz - all are ingredients in the thick melange that gets back to two forms that contain elements of virtually every other: ska and rocksteady.
Cousins of the more mainstream reggae, both are jumpy, jazzy, herky-jerky styles that generally feature horns, danceable melodies, and an intense sense of rhythm. Essentially, rocksteady is a slightly slower version of ska, which is a speedier, poppier version of reggae. Rocksteady and ska both came from Jamaica in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Growing up in a Latin neighborhood in Hartford, Conn., Rocksteady, 24, was exposed to reggae music at a young age. He later discovered the blues, and was especially drawn to Fats Domino and the way a walking bass line - think doomba-DOOMba-doomba-DOOMba repeated in patterns - could be combined with something jumpier to make ska.
"It was my favorite rhythm. I gradually became obsessed with it after awhile," he said in a phone interview from his Boston home.
"It's very danceable, it's very upbeat, and has a rhythm that's pumping. If done well, it's amazing because ska is certainly an amazingly intricate music that is still simple."
About every 20 years, a ska revival sweeps the United Kingdom and the United States, most notably in the post New Wave years of the 1980s when the Specials, English Beat, and Madness were popular. Later practitioners who took the music to the mainstream include the Mighty Bosstones and No Doubt.
Matt Maloney, Rocksteady's drummer who also works for Spit Shine Records, the Boston label for which both record, said ska eschews the political elements and African rhythms favored by reggae for something a little more personal.
And that fits Rocksteady well. His first disc on Spit Shine, "Your Official Introduction," has 12 original tracks, the lyrics of which are written in the first person, he said.
"My music is to teach. It's not just a hobby, it's not senseless. It has a message to tell that is my real-life story and my music is directed to all people, old, young, it doesn't matter," he said.
Through any hardships, he said he always returns to the music and inevitable feel-good quality of ska, blending the Robert Johnson Delta blues he was listening to with Caribbean rhythms.
"It's a modern twist with different styles of reggae with some blues and some jazz. It's definitely everything I love into one. And I like to keep it positive because that's what reggae and rocksteady have offered me - to see the good in life."
The Riding High Rocksteady Tour featuring Boston bands Riki Rocksteady and the Harmonics stops in Toledo Thursday for an 8 p.m. all-ages show in the Happy Badger, 1855 South Reynolds Rd. Local ska acts the Uncertain Five, Kick-Stand, and Groovestump also will perform. Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission is $6 at the door. Information: 419-389-0021.
Contact Rod Lockwood at: email@example.com