Various Artists: ‘Reggae’s Gone Country’

Reggae's Gone Country

What happens when two very distinctive musical worlds collide? The answer is Reggae’s Gone Country. Imagine classic country songs such as Jim Reeves’ “He’ll Have to Go,” Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” and George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” performed reggae style by some of Jamaica’s best vocalists and musicians. No, this isn’t Kenny Chesney’s latest album of Jimmy Buffet-like island music, but instead it’s a new collection of country standards delivered in a captivating and authentic reggae tribute.

Although the concept may initially sound like a musical recipe for things to go horribly awry, it actually works quite well. After all, commonalities of lost love and spirituality link reggae and country together lyrically. And believe it or not, country music is very popular in Jamaica, which is how and why this album’s concept came to fruition. Reggae’s Gone Country is a labor of love for Grammy nominated producer, VP Records executive, and country music buff Cristy Barber, best known for producing 2003’s successful Def Jamaica, a collection of assorted reggae flavored hip hop tunes.

The bulk of the album was recorded in Kingston, Jamaica’s Grafton and Tuff Gong recording studios by reggae producer Dean Fraser. The tracks were then sent to Nashville, where John Rich supervised flourishes of pedal steel and fiddle which were added into the final mix. The compilation includes standout performances by notable island vocalists Tarrus Riley, Tessanne Chin, Beres Hammond, Etana, and Romain Virgo, among several others.

While traditional country purists will most likely be unimpressed, open-minded, genre leaping music aficionados will be pleasantly surprised. Even if the thought of beloved country hits re-worked into reggae versions may seem absurd to some, the end result is an unexpected and highly satiating combination. Frankly, Reggae’s Gone Country’s reimagined Jamaican versions of George Strait’s “The Chair,” Alabama’s “Feels So Right,” and Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” make any locale feel like paradise.

© 2011 ForASong Media, LLC

‘The JaneDear Girls’

Music City’s new duo, The JaneDear Girls, boldly announce their arrival onto the country music scene with their euphoric self-titled debut. The female twosome’s sound is a breath of fresh air and a welcome addition to the current risk-adverse and cynical musical climate. Their unique brand of effervescent, girl-power country pop belongs somewhere in the musical landscape between Shania Twain and Taylor Swift. Hence, this most definitely will not be well received by traditional country enthusiasts.

They consist of Utah born Susie Brown and Texan Danelle Leverett, who met while independently seeking their musical destinies in Nashville. After writing songs together, the two artists decided to team up as partners, and The JaneDear Girls were born. Shortly after their formation, Muzik Mafia member John Rich took them under his wing and became the girls’ musical mentor, as well as producer of their eponymous debut.

Their album begins with lead-off hit single “Wildflower,” which was released in 2010 and has already earned them an ACM nomination in the Top New Vocal Duo or Group category. The second track “Shotgun Girl,” sounds poised and ready to become the follow up to their preceding hit. “Crank it up Waylon, Willie and Merle / I’m your shotgun girl,” they sing in the energetic tune, which seems destined to become a favorite on summertime radio playlists.

“Saturdays In September,” co-penned by mega-hit writer Jeffrey Steele, is the album’s one and only full-fledged ballad, and includes a hook-laden chorus filled with rich harmony vocals. “In those up-all-night Friday nights / phone calls and long goodbyes / reading and writing love letters,” the girls sing in unison. Other noteworthy tracks include “Pretender,” and the instantly likeable and aptly titled “Sing Along.” The disc is rife with plenty of fiddle, banjo, and cranked up electric guitar throughout the 11 tracks presented here, all of which were co-written by the duo along with some notable songsmiths including Marcus Hummon and Jason Reeves.

It’s a musical party of an album steeped in lyrics concerning affair of the heart topics such as: love, heartbreak and innocence lost, which is delivered with a youthful zest and zeal. Upon first listen it may sound like nothing more than pop fluff, but underneath the layers of production is a collection of carefully crafted gems with an endearing quality that will most likely be gobbled up and revered by its target audience.

© 2011 ForASong Media, LLC