TALKIN' ROOTS II "4.5" Stars
Various Artists Release "A Must Have..."
by Jo-Ann Greene - All Music.com (www.allmusic.com)
Following on from their critically acclaimed Talkin' Roots I compilation, Bambu Station return with another round-up of some of the Virgin Islands' best reggae artists. Once again, Bambu provide all the musical backings, as well as engineer, produce and mix the set. In most bands' hands this could lead to an overly "samey" feel, but Bambu are an eclectic band, and shift sound and style to best showcase each individual artist within. It's ladies first for this review, so we begin with Lady Passion, the only woman on the set, and contrarily the only artist delivering a non-cultural number. Still her declarations of constancy fit within the broader theme, while her sultry vocals and cross-over style over a simmering roots rockers riddim evoke a young Susan Cadogan.Danny I's emotive, almost breathless style is equally impassioned, his mesmerizing qualities emphasized by Bambu's compulsive steppers riddim. Black Culture's vocals are even more fragile, but just as soulful, a sublime cross between Linval Thompson and Junior Byle. In contrast, there's Army's more R&B flavored style, beautifully offset by Bambu's bubbly roots reggae backing. Band member Tuff Lion is showcased in similar style on "Good Works", where fans can linger over his superb guitar playing and wonderfully warm, crooning vocals. Singing/guitarist Ibednego has own group, Zionier Reggae Band, but shines here solo on the powerful "Battle Goes On", whose potent lyrics vivisect the portents of the upcoming apocalypse. Anhk Watep's "Visionary Tools" is an extraordinarily eloquent, erudite dissection of the Virgin Island's economic woes, which the artist delivers in sweet singjay style over an infectious backing. Chanter Bashan's excoriation of world leaders is just as effective, his lyrical rhetoric equally persuasive. In an entirely different mode come the seven strong, tag-team Star Lion Family, their overwhelming numbers, union of eclectic individual styles, and sheer exhilaration make them just about unbeatable, with member Pressure exuding star quality on his ferocious solo number "My Powaz". Still Ijah Menelik and Jahman both give the group a run for their money, the former a chanter as fiery as his Montserrat's homeland's volcano, the latter a tough powerhouse. All of these phenomenal talents are already celebrated across the West Indies, Ras Bumpa, though, is a relative new-comer. However, his enthusiastic singjay style and obvious potential point towards a bright future. Raising consciousness, and simultaneously awareness of the superb, yet still relatively unheralded talent of the island chain, Talkin' Roots II is a must have for every reggae fan.