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Black Roots - Ghetto Feel

Black Roots - Ghetto Feel

Black Roots - Ghetto Feel

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Ghetto Feel is classic Black Roots.


Black Roots - Ghetto FeelThe music of Bristol’s Black Roots, as their “tell it like it is” name suggests, has always done what it says on the tin. There have been few tectonic shifts in a 13 album catalogue that has delivered bottom heavy, stripped-down roots reggae, Pan African social commentary, and glassy four part harmonies.

In fact the biggest surprise of their career was when they returned after nearly two decades’ absence with On The Ground, a 17 track triumph on Mike Darby’s Sugar Shack Records, as powerful and committed as where they left off. Following a dub companion piece, the ever independently-minded collective announced they were leaving Sugar Shack in search of a new distribution partner. This turned out to be France's Soulbeats Records for second post comeback vocal set Ghetto Feel.

Like On the Ground the project is a co-production between the group and Bristol studio owner Jeff Spencer. The same engineer Lewis Beckett is back on mixing duties. But where On the Ground was a great if gruelling listen at 17 songs, Ghetto Feel has a trim 12 – recalling the times before filling 75 minutes became a priority. It’s also comparatively relaxed in mood. Having made their big resurgent statement the music seems calmer and more comfortable. Another subtle area of difference is the gloss of the record. Even though it is mixed by Beckett, the tripartite horns (featuring session legends the Tenyue brothers) have the slick, heavily produced sheen common to many French reggae releases.

Lyrically Black Roots tackle some familiar topics. The cantering rockers of Reclaim examines the place names in their home city (“White Ladies Road” and “Black Boy Hill”) and their colonial slavery connotations. There's further criticism of Prime Minister David Cameron (and his chancellor George Osbourne) on the autumnal title track, although the stress is that poverty is global, not local. To a menacing drum pattern Carnival tells the tale of how the Bristol Carnival fell into different hands – a relatable story for many an English city.

Leaner, not meaner, than On The Ground, Ghetto Feel is classic Black Roots. It’s not breaking new ground or reinventing the wheel but if you’re after that – you’ve got the wrong band.

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