Adams coming home; Israel get big break 

Joey Lauren Adams told us Monday she’s still in the process of lining up all the details for a local premiere of her film, “Come Early Morning,” starring Ashley Judd, but as we were writing this it seemed the devil was in those details.

Adams and the Oxford American are planning a premiere benefit Thursday, Dec. 14, for the magazine’s program for literacy arts. It may be shown on two screens at Market Street Cinema, whose owner, Matt Smith, says he has exclusive rights to show the film in this market.

Or, it could be at Riverdale 10. Tom Bennett at Riverdale 10 says his theater has Adams’ OK to have the premiere. When we went to press Tuesday, Smith had spent hours on the phone with various people, including Oxford American publisher Mark Smirnoff and the film’s distributor, to settle things.He said Adams had assured him he’d have the film.

So, when we went to press, Market Street had the premiere Dec. 14 at 6:45 and 7 p.m. Tickets will be $50 and include an after-party at Cornerstone Pub. Showtimes are 6:45 p.m. and 7 p.m. Call the Oxford American at 501-450-5376 or by online at www.oxfordamericanmag.com. Tickets will be available at the theater the day of show.

I’ve seen a preview tape, and it’s a good first effort from director Adams, the North Little Rock native who’s starred in such films as “Chasing Amy.” Judd is outstanding in the film as a 30-year-old single woman with personal issues of intimacy and problems relating to her father.

Adams worked on the project for seven years, getting it filmed last year in Pulaski County and having it screened at the Sundance Film Festival last January.

Joseph Israel is an Arkansas musician who may have found himself in the right place at the right time. When Universal was looking for a roots reggae musician, Israel was traveling between Jamaica and his hometown of Fayetteville several times, recording with reggae greats and tightening his sound.

Universal liked what it heard and signed Israel. Universal will be releasing his “Gone Are the Days” album in March, with tracks to debut soon on iTunes. Israel will be in Little Rock on Friday, Dec. 8, at the Revolution Room and will play at George’s in Fayetteville on Saturday.

Israel is the son of Joe Fennel, the Fayetteville restaurateur-club owner who owns Bordino’s and started Jose’s Mexican Restaurant.

“I always traveled a bunch, and that’s how I got into reggae music,” Israel said. “My parents took us to Jamaica several times.” His mom’s parents had a house in Jamaica, Israel said, while his father made many trips there since his teens too.

Israel grew up watching bands come in and out of Jose’s on Dickson, sitting in on their sound checks. An uncle turned him on to reggae through tapes when Israel was 12, and he was hooked by the genre, though he says “you have to understand all music to get reggae.” He said he knew after high school that he was ready to take on music professionally. He married, took the name “Israel” — “I’m a Bible student and studied the Scripture … I’m a son of Abraham and took the name of Israel for those who strive for God for his blessings,” he said — and developed his sound with help from such players as Chris Meredith, his producer, who played with Ziggy Marley for 20 years.

“He took me to Jamaica and got me introduced to some of the greats in the music,” he said. After multiple trips to the island between 2004 and 2005, Israel produced a CD on his own Lions of Israel label in Fayetteville, before Universal, which has the largest reggae catalog, got interested. Folks who bought one of the 3,000 or so CDs he printed on his own label may have a collector’s item on their hands. The Universal version of the album has a remix, two more songs and extended cuts of his songs on the original CD.

“It’s a great door that’s open for me, and I look forward to representing Arkansas in a sense when I’m all over the world,” Israel said. “It’s a blessing for sure. It’s a great label to have behind me.”

Reggae music recently has shifted commercially toward a hip-hop style. Israel is a throwback. “My style is more Bob Marley with original roots, with rock and fusion,” he said.

Showtime Friday is 9:30 p.m. Admission is $10.



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