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Published: 2012/07/18
by Brian Robbins

Clinton Fearon
Heart And Soul

Boogie Brown Productions

Clinton Fearon is a way too-long-overlooked and under-recognized roots reggae master. The 61 year-old Fearon began making music in his homeland of Jamaica in his teens and his vocal and bass talents played a key role in roots reggae history. Check out his work with The Gladiators from 1969 to 1987 – or dig into the credits of many pressings from the heydays of Studio One and Scratch Perry’s Black Ark and you’ll find that’s Clinton Fearon’s tasty bass playing you’re hearing.

It’s the music that Clinton Fearon has created since settling in the US in 1987 that deserves the most attention, however. A master of melody and rhythm, Fearon has released albums ranging from solo acoustic (2005’s brilliant Mi An’ Mi Guitar ) to a number of full-band efforts with his Boogie Brown Band (the most recent being 2010’s Mi Deh Yah ) – along with a bass-slinging side trip on Faculty Of Dub in 2008.

Fearon’s latest album is all-acoustic, but don’t translate that to mean simple melodies or stripped-down in sound. If anything, the unplugged format of Heart And Soul allows Fearon to go deeper with layers of vocals and rhythm – all self-created in a 6-day stretch of recorded inspiration.

The dozen tunes on Heart And Soul originate from Fearon’s years with The Gladiators, offered here in a setting that’s fresh and captivating. Highlights include the opener “One Love” (not to be confused with the Marley song), an upbeat bouncer that rides the back of massive bubbles of bass and features some joyful scat-singing by Fearon. “Jah Almighty” has sweet soul flavorings; “On The Other Side” is a study in how to build a mighty fortress with acoustic guitar, bass, and talking drum; the verses of “Follow The Rainbow” flow and tumble easily, setting up the sing-along glide of the choruses.

The social commentary of “Richman Poorman” is bolstered by bold, chin-held-high bass riffs, while the broken heart of “Untrue Girl” finds strength in a rhythm bed that can’t help but mend the deepest of hurts. “Chatty Chatty Mouth” is easily the most infectious tune on the album: guitar and percussion bump hips while Fearon lays down some meaningful advice over a playful-sounding melody.

Throughout the album, songs constantly take a turn for the interesting; rhythms subtly grab ahold of you; and while Fearon’s warm and real vocals wrap a friendly arm around your shoulders, it’s his guitar and bass playing that’ll make you grin and shake your head. The man is that good.

Throw on Heart And Soul and you’re transported to a street corner far away, guaranteed. Clinton Fearon’s music only gets better as time goes on.

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