Wednesday, 14 September 2011

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: Star-studded Reggae’s Gone Country offers a soothing blend

DYNAMIC DUO: Gatlin and Virgo for "California."

There are few elements that separate the genres of reggae and country – the geographical locations of their hometowns (Kingston and Nashville, respectively) perhaps the most immediate of the distinctions wedged between them. True, both genres are characterized by signature sounds, but you find that the expressions of their proponents run the gamut almost equally when it comes to persuasive storytelling, emotion and overall melodious appeal. On the matter of tackling certain themes (some as universal as hope, love and struggle), you’d be hard-pressed to find a more piercing delivery elsewhere.

Reggae’s Gone Country delivers ample proof and a lion’s share of highlights among its 14 tracks. The songs on this new recording of reggae’s finest taking on country standards blur the line between the two musical lanes.

To expose our reggae talent – and indeed the listening public – to a musical experience as refreshing as this, one that might not have come along otherwise, is a solid idea out of the VP Records lair. Leading the all-star lineup, Romain Virgo, for instance, proves his vocal versatility on the opening track “California,” featuring the legendary Larry Gatlin. Lending some warmth and tenderness, Tessanne Chin makes “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes” her own, while Busy Signal channels his inner Western cowboy to perform “The Gambler.” Gramps Morgan, meanwhile, was ideally tapped for the Sunday afternoon gem “Feel So Right.” And the list goes on, with nothing to complain about really, except that the production is overwhelmingly spare.

For some, the notion of assembling a roster of reggae singers to render country classics for an album in this tough financial climate might reek of overreach. But there are enough bright moments on Reggae’s Gone Country to make one reconsider such a position. It’s ever a good move to test music’s creative waters, especially if the bid is to push our reggae into new territory. Up next: Reggae Gone Hard Rock? Tyrone’s Verdict: B

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