General Penitentiary
Nitty Gritty
Dug Out
April 2, 2011

General Penitentiary - Nitty Gritty Track list
  1. General Penitentiary
  2. Penitentiary Dub
  3. Can't Test Me
  4. Test Me Dub
  5. Tell Me Whata Gwann
  6. Gwann Dub
  7. Under The Moonlight
  8. Moonlight Dub
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Essential -Votes: 3-
Very Good -Votes: 3-
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Total votes : 8
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 4 Sleeve : 4
Dug Out is a new label devoted to reggae reissues, run by Mark Ainley and Mark Ernestus. The former is co-owner of the Honest Jon's record shop in West London, while the latter set up the Hard Wax shop in Berlin, Germany. As one half of the recording projects Basic Channel, Main Street, Maurizio, and Rhythm & Sound, he has worked regularly with the singer Paul St. Hilaire aka Tikiman, also with reggae legends like Willie Williams, Cornell Campbell and Sugar Minott. Mark Ernestus also co-managed the latest, extensive Bullwackies reissue programme.

Shortly after having surprised the fans of mid-eighties dancehall with the re-issue of the incredible 1985's dancehall rarity "Tempo Explosion", the label has once again dug up a rare Black Victory album for re-release. This time it's the 8-track album "General Penitentiary" from the late Nitty Gritty, actually a so-called 'Showcase' set on which the vocal efforts are followed directly by their dub versions.

Glen Augustus Holness aka Nitty Gritty (born 1957, Kingston JA) was a contemporary of artists such as Tenor Saw and King Kong and Anthony Red Rose, all of whom shared a similar vocal style. All sang in the same oddly expressive flat wail that was a digital counterpart to the Waterhouse style established by artists such as Michael Rose and Junior Reid during the early eighies. Nitty Gritty delivered his most successful and best output during the second half of the eighties, when computerised riddims took hold in Jamaica. He had his greatest impact with King Jammy, for whom he recorded a string of hits including "Hog Ina Me Minty", "Run Down The World", "Good Morning Teacher", "So Them Come, So Them Go", and "Gimme Some Of Your Something". In 1991 he was shot dead outside Super Power record shop in Brooklyn, New York.

This Ibo Millington produced "General Penitentiary" set captures Nitty Gritty at the top of his game. Vocally, and also lyrically, he truly excels on top of the superb riddims laid by the Studio One Band that consisted of musicians such as Errol "Bagga" Walker (bass), Wycliffe "Steely" Johnson (drums), Dalton Browne (rhythm guitar), Pablove Black (piano, organ), and Jerry Johnson (saxophone). The title track, the sufferers piece "General Penitentiary", is outrageous and has lyrics like "You can stop a bird from making a nest in your hat, but you never stop him from flying over, no way." It's followed by a solid soundbwoy tune called "Can't Test Me", in which he boasts that no-one can test him, Tenor Saw, King Kong or Red Rose. "Tell Me Whata Gwann" is a real big tune, simply great to hear over and over again. Nitty Gritty shows his romantic side in "Under The Moonlight", but his vocal style combined with the hard hitting riddim track makes this a real rough one. The four dub versions, mixed by Bunny Tom Tom aka Crucial Bunny, are all killers and thus a joy to listen to.

This "General Penitentiary" album is rough and tough, just like the singer who survived many a hard time in the ghetto.