Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reggae's Gone Country

The idea is simple: Create a unique album of country songs as interpreted by today’s current reggae notables.

The problem is thus: Who are today’s reggae “notables.”

I’m guilty of it too. My appreciation of reggae is deep-seeded. There is no logical explanation for it, other than one of my favorite joys in the summertime is to open up the sunroof in my 4Runner and just blare old-school reggae for no other reason than just to pretend I’m not in a landlocked state.

But the reality is that when Reggae began to shift to more dancehall vibes and to incorporate more rap elements into the arrangements was the day that I left the island for good. It’s a genre where I’m merely trying to tie up the final requirements. I’m looking for Bunny Wailer’s elusive Liberation, there’s a few Peter Tosh records that I need to acquire, and I still haven’t been able to find a digital source for Lieutenant Stitchie’s “Body Body” 12”, so my vinyl copy will have to suffice.

What I’m admitting here is that I haven’t bought a new reggae album in over twenty years and product like Reggae’s Gone Country is an attempt to turn people on to this vital genre and an attempt to win me back by exposing new artists for me to consider.

While it’s obviously just a blatant marketing attempt, the producers try to associate the two genres with tales of similarities which don’t seem to go beyond much more than the subject matters of their respective songs.

What’s curious is that I view reggae as a rebellious outlet, particularly for all of the struggles that the country has felt within its urban centers and the island’s strong ties to Afro-centric cultures.

And for the life of me, I can’t remember Kenny Rogers’ singing about Marcus Garvey.

When Busy Signal comes to return the favor with his version of “The Gambler,” we get a tepid reggae beat underneath an out-of-place steel guitar and a completely uninspired and auto-tuned vocal that merely recites the lyrics.

They even grabbed Larry Gatlin for a reggae version of “California” which, again, is nothing more than a wimpy reggae beat over a re-recorded version of the original.

In fact, Reggae’s Gone Country manages to neuter both genres pretty effectively with every song included. It completely ignores any similarities that the press-kit tries to convince you of and it even goes a step further.

It is bad enough that it will do exactly the opposite of what it’s designed to do: prompt you to dive deeper within the genre, finding a hidden affection towards the music and the new artists that are supposedly carrying the torch for a new generation.

Maybe these artists would fare better by listening to the genre’s groundbreaking revolutionaries instead of the record labels who believe shit like Reggae’s Gone Country will attract tourists.

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