Dusted Reviews

Version City Rockers - Darker Roots

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Version City Rockers

Album: Darker Roots

Label: Antifaz

Review date: Jan. 30, 2005

Darker Roots, the new album from the Version City Rockers, is a quiet wonder. These sessions were recorded in a two-year period that began in the shadow of 9/11, and Damon Locks’ artwork speaks to various and sundry urban ills that include sprawl, tagging, and, quite possibly, acid rain. But despite the thematic continuity and the “darker” vibe reinforced by the title, this album succeeds on the strength of the performers and the Rockers’ meat-and-potatoes approach.

Stripped a bit more bare than the traditional roots lineups of backing bands for Burning Spear or Peter Tosh, Version City Rockers push a unique aesthetic, never overbuilding a track with too much brass or choruses, they deliver a cool, almost jazzy vibe. The bass and drum mix is a constant, despite the mix-and-match roster of players, and harks back to the deep, dub-inflected work of Dennis Bovell while he was music director for Linton Kwesi Johnson. Producer King Django has left each of the rotating lineup of singers – which includes Sugar Minott, Sister Nancy, and Yabby You, amongst others – enough room to make the solid backing band their own for a few minutes, making for the ideal combination: a virtual compilation, with seamless, consistent production value but representative of the individual sounds brought by the artists themselves.

One of the brightest moments on Darker Roots include “Let’s Live Love,” featuring the vocals of Glen Brown, one of the house regulars, who also contributes percussion and melodica. It’s tough to talk “melodica” about a reggae release and not mention Augustus Pablo, but the driving tempo, and Brown’s eerie vocal resemblance to Steel Pulse frontman David Hinds, make the track a standout.

Sister Nancy’s contribution, “Jah Have The Handle,” provides more than just nostalgia. Since her spot on the The Yellow, The Purple, and The Nancy 23 years ago, Sister Nancy has always been vanguard as a woman MC, paving the way for the Patras and Queen Ivys that have followed. Her uniquely shrill delivery, something like a parrot on fire, has sharpened over the years, enhanced by a maturity and fluidity that the youth can’t fake. Even riffing for a bit on the spiritual “Down By The Riverside,” this is not the sound of a lady keeping up with the men, but a pioneer keeping her sound fresh and using her eccentricity to take the genre a little bit further.

Takes by Sugar Minott and Yabby You hold up nicely as well, but if there’s a profoundly emotional cut on Darker Roots, it’s Congo Ashanti Roy’s “Why Dem A Galong So.” With a direct reference to 9/11 and pleas for “governments to get along” (or something like that), the song is in danger of collapsing under the weight of its own lyrical blandness, but between Roy’s hard-roots growl, and the spooky moans of “whyyyy” in the chorus, the album closes out on a dark, introspective vibe, with a rushed fade that suggests there may be a lot more to report, even if it’s more darkness on the horizon.

By Andy Freivogel

Read More

View all articles by Andy Freivogel

Find out more about Antifaz

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.