Title - 'Reggae's Gone Country'
Artist - Various Artists
Reggae’s Gone Country, a compilation of classic country hits covered by Jamaica’s top musicians and supporting vocals by country icon, Larry Gatlin of The Gatlin Brothers (just released on VP Records and Elektra Nashville) is an interesting project, that's for sure!
And, in truth, I'm not sure it works, but it does beg for a second listen. Which I willingly gave it. But still, well, something about it just doesn't jive for me as a long time journalist, sorry.
The album kicks of with 'California' from 21-year-old Romain Virgo & Larry Gatlin (a rendition of the Gatlin Brothers’ 1979 hit) and as much as it's a nice way to ease us in, it's nothing that exciting. Indeed, as it comes to and end and 'He'll Have To Go' (Luciano) steps into its place, you are already wondering if this was a good idea!
The gentle sway of 'Wolverton Mountain' from Richie Stephens is just plain weird! Complete with banjo, male doo-wop's and Stephens' Reggae tones, it sure makes for an interesting ride. Luckily for us, young singer Etana quickly brings us the beautiful Patsy Cline track, 'Crazy.'
'The Chair,' from Tarrus Riley and the twangy 'He Stopped Loving Her Today' from Beres Hammond are nice enough, but 'Suspicions' (Duane Stephenson) is probably the most reggae of all the tracks. Straight from the off it's dubs a lazy beats ensure you think more of that genre than anything country-inspired. Penned by the late Eddie Rabbit, the mega country-pop hit from 1979 is definitely brought to life once more.
A beautiful rendition of Crystal Gayle’s 'Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue' from young Jamaican songstress Tessanne Chin is worth its musical weight in gold here. That said, 'Feels So Right' from Gramps Morgan and 'The King Of The Road' from Reggae legend Freddie McGregor are great back-ups also, in truth.
'El Paso' from Sanchez is very nicely done, with 'Flowers On The Wall' from L.U.S.T. quite easily the best, standout track on this CD. From the moment the banjo strikes up alongside the twangs of other country instruments, well, it's bouncy chorus carries us along on a wave of pure adoration. The CD closes with Busy Signal's version of Kenny Rogers' 'The Gambler' (complete with reverb), and as much as he is more oft associated with spitting out rapid-fire rhymes, it's a nice touch to have it this way here, for sure.
John Rich (Big & Rich, and producer of this set) has said that this CD compilation, "... is (a) crazy cool idea," - and as much as he is 100% correct, I'm not too sure that this seamless blend of musical genres from Reggae’s best to Country's classics is straying too far (as a notion) from the aforementioned crazy stable!