Reggae's Gone Country
VP Records / Warner Music Nashville
September 10, 2011

Reggae's Gone Country - Various Artists Track list
  1. Romain Virgo & Larry Gatlin - California
  2. Luciano - He'll Have To Go
  3. Richie Stephens - Wolverton Mountain
  4. Etana - Crazy
  5. Tarrus Riley - The Chair
  6. Beres Hammond - He Stopped Loving Her Today
  7. Duane Stephenson - Suspicions
  8. Tessanne Chin - Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue
  9. Gramps Morgan - Feels So Right
  10. Freddie Mcgregor - The King Of The Road
  11. Sanchez - El Paso
  12. L.U.S.T. - Flowers On The Wall
  13. Busy Signal - The Gambler
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Essential -Votes: 9-
Very Good -Votes: 3-
Good -Votes: 2-
Average -Votes: 1-
Disappointing -Votes: 0-
A Waste Of Time -Votes: 1-

Total votes : 16
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4/5 Backing : 4/5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4/5
For most reggae fans the combination reggae and country looks awkward, but a closer look will reveal some interesting points of interest. Both genres were created by marginalized people, be it Jamaicans who flocked from rural locales seeking jobs in the bustling capital Kingston then settled in overcrowded tenement yards often lacking in basic amenities or Americans in the southern Appalachia region residing in economically depressed communities, in near isolation from the rest of the country. Both music styles fashioned a sonic identity culled from various influences. Jazz, Cuban music, calypso and especially early R&B heard on U.S. radio signals were the essential components in the creation of the Island's popular music. Bluegrass, the direct forerunner to country music is derived from the English and Scottish ballad tradition and Irish and Scottish fiddle music. African-American blues musicians also played preeminent roles in crafting bluegrass and country's signature instrumentation, most notably through their introduction of the banjo, now regarded as an emblematic representation of the region, into the music. Lyrically speaking we see that reggae and country are rife with love-gone-wrong songs, romanticized gritty outlaw tales and expressions of unwavering spiritual devotion providing guidance through daily struggles, each delivered in their distinctive regional voices, the molasses thick Jamaican patois heard on many reggae tracks and country's indelible southern twang. The most famous example of reggae gone's country has to be June Lodge's worldwide hit 'Someone Loves You Honey', a cover of a tune written by Charlie Rich. Producer Joe Gibbs fought a costly legal battle concerning unpaid royalties and it brought an end to recordings from Gibbs. For more reggae covers of country tunes check out the 2007 'Trojan Reggae Country Box Set'.

The compilation set 'Reggae's Gone Country' is a joint venture between Warner Music Nashville and VP Records. The album's title is adapted from a show for Country Music Television (CMT) Gone Country, which placed unlikely characters in the role of wannabe country stars. Cristy Barber, vice president of marketing and promotions at VP Records spearheaded the 'Reggae's Gone Country' project. "I had the idea to take the country classics which everybody in the Caribbean knew and do reggae versions of them". She handpicked 13 classic country songs to be covered and Dean Fraser gathered together Kingston's finest instrumental talents, which includes legendary drum and bass duo Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, veteran bassist Glen Brown and guitar virtuoso Dwight Pinkney. Vocals and backing tracks were laid down at Kingston's Grafton and Tuff Gong Studios and mixed by Errol Brown and his son Shane. Due to the Jamaican artists' and musicians' hectic touring and recording schedules the reggae backing tracks and vocals were completed nearly a year after they started the project. The tracks were then sent to Nashville where they were embellished with country instrumentation by legendary pedal steel player Mike Johnson and Jonathan Yudkin on fiddle/ banjo with John Rich overseeing the production at Fireside Studios. For the production of this project several leading figures from both genres joined forces. John Rich of the country duo Big & Rich, acclaimed Jamaican saxophonist Dean Fraser, singer/songwriter Charlie Pennachio, VP Records CEO Chris Chin, Raymond Barber and his daughter Cristy Barber.

The music sounds really incredible, it's crisp and crystal clear, truly above reggae standards. It kicks off with young Romain Virgo in combination with Larry Gatlin who lay down a perfect reworking of the 1979 smash hit California. Another young reggae artist, Tarrus Riley, brings us a compelling do-over of George Strait's The Chair, a tender ballad about a chance meeting. Roots reggae veteran Luciano's velvet baritone renders a haunting version of the late Jim Reeves' heartfelt lovers tune He'll Have To Go. In 1979 Eddie Rabbbit charted with Suspicions, here Duane Stephenson puts his distinctive stamp on this excellent tune. Dancehall phenomenon Busy Signal, more often associated with spitting out rapid-fire rhymes, offers an inspiringly sung rendition of Kenny Rogers' country-pop Grammy Award winning blockbuster The Gambler. Roman Stewart relicked Wolverton Mountain in the early 70s, here smooth and powerful vocalist Richie Stephens presents a great new interpretation of the 1962 country classic from Claude King.

George Jones is widely considered country's greatest living singer, check out his early recordings and you'll understand why there's only a small thin line between reggae, blues and country. He Stopped Loving Her Today relating the story of someone who never gives up on true love, is regarded as perhaps the greatest country song of all time and it is covered here by Beres Hammond, venerated as Jamaica's finest living singer/songwriter. When The Statler Brothers scored in 1966 with Flowers on the Wall, which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, no soul in the world could have imagined that four Jamaican vocalists -- L.U.S.T. (Lukie D, Thriller U, Singing Melody and Tony Curtis) -- would deliver a solid reggae do-over, complete with fiddle and banjo. Excellent production!

Sanchez has always been a vocalist, who is able to take a song from whatever genre and turn it into a fine reggae song. Marty Robbin's timeless Tex-Mex ballad El Paso is one of country's most enduringly popular songs on Jamaica, and there's only one man who can cover it in the right way, the one and only Sanchez. Boom tune! Studio One veteran Freddie McGregor shows his talents when he gives us a surprising version of Roger Miller's King Of The Road. Two young female top vocalists contribute fine tunes. First there's Etana, one of Jamaica's most talented singers. She gives Patsy Cline's Crazy the rightful reggae treatment, while Tessanne Chin shines in her mellow version of Crystal Gayle's cross-over hit Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.

To be honest, at first -- looking at the cover -- we had our doubts, but how wrong we were! This is a top notch, smooth reggae production and definitely well worth checking out!