Review of Iona by Steve Wilks
Bristol’s rich multicultural history found a flashpoint in the Black & White Cafe in St Pauls in the early 80s. St Pauls had a reputation for crime and drug dealing, but more to the point, it was a home to black people and black culture in a time when racial attitudes were less refined than today. Oddly, out of that whole difficult background, comes Steve Wilks‘ ‘Iona‘, a heartfelt, upbeat, really poppy song that deserves considerable commercial success.
The Black and White Cafe was in the Wilks family for over thirty years. It can’t have been the easiest environment for Steve Wilks to grow up in (a 2003 Observer article mentions “the air … thick with the cloying smell of cannabis and the sounds of hard reggae.”) At one time he spoke up for the family as the police did the best to close down the legendary establishment. And after it closed and was bulldozed, at some point Steve Wilks took off for Paris, becoming a street musician – there are a handful of videos on Youtube of him performing in the Metro.
I’m guessing now that this period is when he lost contact with his girl, Iona. The song is his attempted reparation to her, an attempt to build bridges. I’m not in a position to debate the rights and wrongs of that, but he’s fashioned a tremendous, catchy tune which stands on its own.
Wilks programmed and produced the song and it features backing vocals by Elisha Wilks. It’s a really clean, dancehall sound, with an infectious riff. It’s an amazing earworm – in a strange way it hearkens back to the great reggae hits of the 70s, and it’s a shame that there aren’t the opportunities for exposure that there used to be for a national audience, because this could have been a big hit.
The lyrics go into some detail about his past misdeeds (“Yeh it started at 215 mph/ Should a cool down with a shower/ But your daddy is a fiend/ Gotta smoke weed all day and burn fire”) and he’s never less than honest. For his sake, I hope he manages to build bridges. If nothing else Steve Wilks has created a well-produced, terrific pop record, that once heard, you won’t forget. And don’t play it to your kids, unless you want them singing it for the next month.
You can find the video at Steve’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/stevewilks247/, and you can buy it on iTunes and via the usual digital stockists.
Review by Steve Noble