Roots and Riddim roundup – Three Good Ones
By Doug Heselgrave
Mi Deh Yah – by Clinton Fearon
There aren’t many active first generation roots reggae performers left, and that makes records like ‘Mi Deh Yah’ all the more special. Whether or not reggae is your cup of tea, Clinton Fearon is as real and rootsy as they come. An original member of the seminal Gladiators vocal trio, Fearon has sung and played bass with everyone from Lee Perry to Bob Marley in his four decades in the music business. While he’s never gained the acclaim or attention of Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear, Bunny Wailer or some of his other contemporaries who still make occasional forays into touring and recording, Fearon has consistently released solid albums that encompass everything that was so essential and appealing about reggae when it first broke out of Jamaica over thirty years ago. ‘Mi Deh Yah’ – like all of Fearon’s albums – is heavily grounded in the sounds of reggae’s 1970’s heyday and the fourteen songs on offer here may entice people who lost interest in Jamaican music when it slid into dancehall ‘slackness’ back into the fold. Highlights include the confessional ‘Life is a journey’ and the harmony drenched ‘Feeling Blue.’ Highly recommended.
Homes by Jon and Roy
I first heard Jon and Roy last summer at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. I had just passed inside the gate when I heard the sound of African highlife guitar drifting from one of the workshop stages and decided to make my way over. I was surprised when as I got closer, the two musicians creating this wonderful music were not in fact African, but two young white musicians from Victoria, Canada. While my first reaction was ‘ What the Hell do they think they’re trying to pull off’, a few minutes more of listening to the effortless acoustic groove the two locked into, and I was solidly under their spell. ‘Homes’ is Jon and Roy’s debut CD and it’s quickly becoming one of my favourite acoustic albums of the year. This guitar and percussion duo plays juju rhythms and Zimbabwean riffs as if it was the most natural thing in the world. There’s nothing self-conscious in their approach. Jon and Roy don’t have dreadlocks or look like Deadhead Trustafarians; they seem secure and let their love of music speak for itself. My favourite songs include the Thomas Mapfumo inspired ‘Any Day Now’ and ‘It’s Gonna be Fine” The music reaches new heights on “Gold” and “Homemade Shirts” each of which features inspired fiddle solos from fellow Victoria native and Canadian roots legend, Daniel Lapp. Jon and Roy are an act to watch.
Live (2010) – Vieux Farka Toure
Vieux Farka Toure had some pretty big shoes to fill when he decided to go into the music business. Originally forbidden by his father, the legendary Ali Farka Toure from following in his footsteps, Vieux spent years in the military before chucking it and deciding the regular pay cheque wasn’t worth the deadly combination of boredom and danger. His first album played it relatively safe as he paid tribute to his father while at the same time stretching out into some heavier electric guitar sounds. A remix album that followed proved that while Vieux was still his father’s son, the world had changed a lot since Ali Farka Toure first came to the attention of western audiences in the mid eighties. But, Vieux and Ali Farka couldn’t be more different in many ways. Ali Farka welcomed collaborations with western musicians, but they always met him on his own turf, so albums with artists like Ry Cooder weren’t meetings as much as summits where the senior Toure called all the shots. By contrast, Vieux clearly loves the opportunity to cross over and experiment with many different musical styles. This new live album – released to capitalize on Toure’s appearance at the World Cup celebrations in South Africa – is a great introduction to Vieux Farka Toure’s music as it features a range of styles and songs. From acoustic Malian guitar lullabies to fully cranked electric blues workouts, the younger Toure is becoming a musical giant completely on his own terms, and this transitional album is an indicator of great things to come. This one deserves a listen.
This posting also appears at www.restlessandreal.blogspot.com
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