by: Jarret Lovell
Israel Vibration - "Reggae Knights? (Mediacom)
In an era of computerized riddims, synthesized beats and boasting vocals, few roots reggae acts have endured since the heyday of the 1970s. Israel Vibration proves to be one of the crucial exceptions. Having released some 10 plus studio albums and countless collaborations and dubs, "Reggae Knights" finds the band in top form. Backed as always by the powerful basslines of Errol "Flabba" Holt and guitar of Dwight Pickney of the Roots Radics, there are actually more tunes on this one featuring Robbie Shakespeare (also of early Roots Radics fame and later - of Sly & Robbie.) "Hailie-I" uses multiple drumming to create a Nyabinghi sound, and "New York City" is an homage to the city they've called home for some 20 years now. Other songs sing of poverty, crime, and pride in Jamaica despite its problems ("Cantankerous.") If there is one drawback, it is the song "If You Do Bad" which sadly like so many contemporary Jamaican songs condemns the homosexual lifestyle while otherwise preaching tolerance. Still, a very solid album.
Diplo Selects Greensleeves - "Riddimentary" (Greensleeves)
With Diplo working closely with such artists as SantoGold and M.I.A., he's no stranger to the reggae/dub/dancehall vibe. So it should come as no surprise that Greensleeves - the top label of old school dancehall and dub and the discomix - should select this hugely popular producer/mixer to put together a sampler mix. HIs selections are great to be sure, but there are few surprises. Instead, Diplo picked the best of the best from Greensleeves for Riddimentary: John Holt, Gregory Isaacs, and Barrington Levy. Also missing is any mixing, blending, or production tricks. Still, if you are new to the genre and want to hear the sound that inspired such acts as the Clash, such genres as contemporary hip-hop and dubstep, this compilation should be your first stop.
Sufia Giza (Roots Poetess) - "Sankofa Times" (Unity)
DUB Poetry is back! Dub Poetry is back! One of the joys of attending huge music festivals is the discovery of new (or undiscovered) talent. Sufia Giza is this year's find from the RaggaMuffins Festival. With a stellar array of musicians backing her up, Sufia delivers insightful spoken word/poetry against roots reggae and dub - much in the tradition of dub poets of the past. But where some past dub poetry can't decide if the words or music should take precedent, here - the words are too powerful to drown in bass. With titles such as "Human Cargo," "Armchair Revolutionaries" and "Langston's Blues," this is a cd perfect for any genre and especially for breaks in Public Affairs Programs. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!! Please support local poets and artists!
Etana - "Free Expressions" (VP)
A one-time backup singer to Reggae Superstar Richie Spice, Etana was born Shauna McKenzie, the only girl in a family of boys. She grew up in the eastern Saint Andrew community of August Town where she currently resides. Her vocal talent was discovered when she was six years old and was overheard singing along to a 1991 hit by the group Air Supply. Her first release "The Strong One" was met with widespread praise and featured a duet with Alborosie. Her new release "Free Expressions" moves beyond the R&B vibe, with some tracks hitting heavy with the bass and reggae vibe. A beautiful voice with a positive message, tracks such as "Mocking Bird," "People Talk" and especially "Venting" really deliver the goods. Simply a great release from a rising star!
Ky-Mani Marley - "Lessons In My LIfe/Rasta Love"
If you missed Sister Rue's interview with Ky-Mani Marley last month, here's your chance to hear the music behind the man. These two singles are less Ky-Mani tracks and more Ky-Mani collaborations. 'Lessons in My Life' is a slow, acoustic collaboration with Andrew Tosh which is a tribute to his father Peter Tosh. Meanwhile "Rasta Love" is more contemporary and upbeat, bordering on the dancehall vibe. Both are great and transcend musical genres. For those weary of any artists besides Bob having the Marley surname, be aware that the many Marley children are producing some of the strongest and most innovative Jamaican music to date!
Roly - S/T (Rollyriddims)
From the Northern heartland of the Western Hemisphere , Roly brings you dubbed-out instrumental stylings in a reggae and soulful mood. Forging new directions in subterranean dancehall and Caribbean-lounge, Roly is Andrew on Drums and Percussion, David on Trombone and Keys, Drew on Bouncy Bass, and Teddy P on Electric Guitar and Micro Korg. Formed in a St. Louis BASSment in 2007, Roly will hypnotize crowds into joyful submission to the universal riddims. Nice, organic trip-out music. Enjoy.
Joseph Elliott - "Rescue Me." (Bad Step)
Nice, mellow reggae from the home of reggae itself. Nothing too serious, nothing too hard. Just nice music. Give it a listen.