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U-Roy, Follow Jah, Eek-A-Mouse and The Skints

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This time out we listen to reggae releases by artists checking in from Jamaica, London and South Africa.

U-Roy
Pray Fi Di People

Soulbeats

French label Soulbeats has released the latest from reggae veteran U-Roy, a 13-track effort that finds the 71-year-old in fine form and sharing the mic with guests on all but one cut. Marcia Griffiths is the best-known of the guests and she lends her sweet voice to the bouncy old-school reggae of opener "Love Question." U-Roy came up in the 70s when Bob Marley first became the rage and he knows how to make an album that fans of this era will really like; "Border Line" with Chezidek is a great sing-along cut that's drenched in "one love" joy, "Call on Jah" with Harrison "Professor" Stafford of California-based Groundation is a spirit booster that'll get you dancing too and "Got a Date" featuring singer Sophia Squire tunes into the classic Jimmy Cliff sound. A solid effort from one of the genre's surviving greats.

Follow Jah
Read & Write

Igeba Trading

Making reference to the much-revered Bob Marley album in the CD's liner notes, South African artist Follow Jah calls Read & Write his Exodus. Indeed, songs like the title cut, the roots/rock/reggae of "Stop Killing" and the rhythmic chant of "Amagidion" sound very much inspired by the Marley classic. Follow Jah also includes healthy doses of jazz and ska in his music, mostly through the use of airy keyboards and a horn section. About half the album is sung in English but tunes like "Inkomo Zobaba," sung in an African dialect, are just as much fun and have great choruses that beg to be sung along to even though you're not going to get the words quite right.

Eek-A-Mouse
Eek-Ology

VP

Ripton Hylton, known professionally as Eek-A-Mouse, hasn't had the greatest time lately; the Kingston-born singer was arrested in North Carolina on multiple felony charges back in 2008 and only got out of prison last year after signing a plea deal. So while he's getting his act together to make new music, here's an expansive career-spanning anthology packed with hits and favorites, rarities and obscurities and a selection of live numbers like "Hitler," "Wa-Do-Dem" and "For Hire and Removal" that were cut for BBC Radio's John Peel Sessions. Already a winner with 34 songs presented on 2-CDs, the bonus DVD featuring The Mouse's 1983 Sunsplash show is icing on the cake.

The Skints
Part & Parcel

Soulbeats

London's The Skints pay homage to classic dub and dancehall sounds on numbers like "Rise Up" and "Rat-At-At" where both male and female vocalists reel off bursts of rapid-fire toasting but they're also very much tuned in to the vibe that gets tons of airplay at pop radio. A perfect example is "Ring Ring," a jaunty number where Marcia Richards' singing style brings to mind the early days of ska and the work of acts like No Doubt that paid homage to that sound later. All songs here are original except for a sublime take on fellow Brit Katie B's "On a Mission."

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