UK reggae band Black Roots is a favorite of mine and their self-titled debut album is one of the strongest sets coming from Britain. I was of course thrilled when I heard they had reunited a few years back and I was thrilled again when I realized they were also about to drop their first full-length set in more than 20 years.
On the Ground dropped in 2012. It completed their comeback and was a success. It was followed by a stripped down and downright excellent dub counterpart in 2013.
Now I’m thrilled yet again. The reason? Black Roots is back with yet another scorcher. This time they’ve teamed up with French independent label SoulBeats.
Ghetto Feel is another deep and profound album from this Bristol-based band. It revolves around social challenges and Black Roots express their political standpoints on various issues. In the 80s they were at war with Margaret Thatcher, now their critique is directed at David Cameron, another Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party.
Even though Black Roots are outspoken with defiant lyrical themes, the melodies are often bright and they offer a good dose of slowly skanking vibes and uplifting grooves. Just listen to Albert Villa with its calypso-tinged melody or the gospel-fused Lonely Journey.
Ghetto Feel is the heart of vintage roots reggae and it could easily have been released in the early 80s.
Last year’s On the Ground was Bristolian band Black Roots’ first album in more than 20 years and was rightly praised by critics and fans. The success has now spawned a dub counterpart to the original vocal version. Its title is simple and effective – On the Ground in Dub.
It collects 15 of the original 17 tracks. For some reason Capitalism and the title track didn’t make it for the dub version.
In classic dub fashion the music has been stripped down, rearranged and recharged, but without losing any of its bright and catchy melodies. This is partly thanks to the excellent and downright awesome horn section and partly thanks to the mixing style courtesy of Louis Becket, who hasn’t drowned the music with the usual dub effects.
The drums and bass are the mains ingredients, which gives the horns plenty of space to do their beautiful thing. It’s sweet with plenty of hooks, yet still militant.
The press release describes the album as a “a modern dub classic”. I can only agree. Definitely one of the best contemporary dub albums I’ve heard in many years.
On the Ground in Dub is now available on CD and digital download.
Bristol-band Black Roots – one of the best reggae bands from the UK in the 80’s – has reunited and headed back into the studio for the first time in more than 20 years. The result is On the Ground, an album with a deep skanking groove reminiscent of their heydays almost 30 years ago.
The tight riddim section showcases their skills on both up-tempo cuts as well as slower and more meditative ones. It’s complemented by a skilled horn section and tight back-up vocals, which emphasizes the clear and bright melodies that have always been part of Black Roots’ sound.
The songwriting is inspired and the earnest lyrics concern cultural, conscious and economical issues, as witnessed in tunes such as No Fee, Earth Land and Capitalism.
Other highlights include heavyweighters Militancy and Pompous Way as well as the 80’s sounding Call Me Out.
Black Roots’ music have always been a vital mix of sing-a-long choruses and important messages to the people, and On the Ground sees the band working according to the same recipe as they have always done.
One the Ground is now available on LP, CD and digital download.