I’ve never really thought about it until the news about VP Records’ recent compilation Reggae’s Gone Country hit me – country has been part of Jamaica for many years. One of the earliest examples of its influence being the mariachi horns in The Skatalites’ classic Occupation from the early 60’s, which borrows the riff from Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire.
There are other examples as well. Bob Andy’s Games People Play and Ken Parker’s Kiss an Angel Good Morning, originally recorded by Joe South and Charley Pride respectively, are two of my favorites.
So Reggae’s Gone Country might not have come as a complete surprise for some. For me it did though.
VP has teamed up with Warner Music Nashville. They’ve paired reggae musicians and artists such as Sly & Robbie, Dean Fraser, Beres Hammond and Tarrus Riley with pedal steel player Mike Johnson and Jonathan Yudkin on fiddle/ banjo. Together they have put a reggae beat on 13 country standards in a mellow mood.
Some of the more familiar tunes include lover boy Romain Virgo’s take on The Gatlin Brothers’ California, with Larry Gatlin himself on contributing vocals, and Duane Stephenson’s cut of Suspicions, the late Eddie Rabbit’s smash hit. Both originally recorded in 1979.
The most striking tune is although Busy Signal’s The Gambler, a rendition of Kenny Rogers’ Grammy winner. I’m usually allergic to auto-tune, and this tune would normally have made me call the ambulance. But somehow it actually sounds pretty decent. I have to admit that it took a while, but now I’m stomping my feet and humming along.
Reggae’s Gone Country will probably not appeal to everyone, and I can only hope that it crosses over to the country listeners and gives reggae some good exposure. God knows reggae needs as much people onboard as possible.