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Published: 2012/01/10
by Jeremy Sanchez

Various Artists
Reggae's Gone Country

VP Records/Elektra Nashville

Are reggae and down home country music compatible enough to mix together, or are they an oil and water combination? That’s the question VP Records and Warner Music Nashville must have considered before bringing Reggae’s Gone Country to the drawing board. Obviously, they decided the mix was worth trying, with the release of this album full of rare blends, backed by the star-power production team of John Rich (country music’s Big and Rich) and Dean Frazier (reggae’s consummate saxophonist).

The ability for these two genres to pair shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as reggae’s roots owe a great deal to American blues music, and country has a long list of unions in the blues category. Seen in that light, Reggae’s Gone Country was destined to work just as well. Topically, reggae and country tend to push a heavy and often emotionally-packed message, yet another reason the two were destined to mingle.

This is an album that pays respect to some of country music’s golden tracks, by pulling in some reggae greats, as well as some of the genre’s lesser-known artists. Shouldered by some of the album’s less recognizable reggae artists, The Gatlin Brothers’ “California” starts the list of morphed tracks with Romain Virgo and The Gatlin Brothers’ own Larry Gatlin taking care of vocal duties, the iconic Patsy Kline’s “Crazy” is graced by the vocal stylings of Etana, and Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler” (a staple of country music’s canon) is made modern by Busy Signal. What about the reggae heavyweights? Luciano sings “He’ll Have to Go” (Jim Reeves), Berres Hammond croons through “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (George Jones), and Freddie McGregor is the newly crowned “King of the Road” (Roger Miller).

Does the mix always work out? I often found myself hunting for that bass heavy reggae that I’m passionate for, but a true country fan would likely have a similar search for the country side of this album. That music lover who happens to be enamored with both genres will likely find an instant classic in this release. Just don’t go into this one expecting something that sounds entirely reggae, with a dab of country, or something that sounds overly country, with a touch of reggae; Reggae’s Gone Country happens to be such a solid mix of the two that you’d better love both musical styles, or else you might be hunting for something that sounds like what you already have in your collection. For someone who falls somewhere in the middle on a scale between reggae and country, this is an album that’s likely to play on.

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