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World Music CD Reviews Reggae & Caribbean

DAVID HILLYARD AND THE ROCKSTEADY 7

By TOM ORR
Published June 5, 2006

United Front
Do Tell

These guys have quite a way with rocksteady, as well as the Jamaican styles that sandwiched it: ska and reggae. There’s also a good helping of jazz looseness in the grooves, along with a defiant intent the almost-entirely instrumental tracks nail down. In fact, this band is to rocksteady what Antibalas is to Afrobeat: a rhythm-driven, horn-laden collective letting music do the talking. But don’t stick this in your stereo expecting a lecture; expect plenty of conscious party jams, expert musical interplay and an overall good time. Listen to how the Wailers’ “Duppy Conqueror” gets a new dose of funkiness in its familiar staggering rhythm, how authoritatively the originals swing, how veteran percussionist Larry McDonald bubbles with more than a hint of nyabinghi roots and, most importantly, how palpable the feeling of unity saxophonist/bandleader Hillyard and his ensemble exude.