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Sign Time by Kingman and Jonah

Sign Time by Kingman and Jonah

Sign Time by Kingman and Jonah

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Returning roots master gets boost from indie rocker.


When this CD came my way I found myself in need of educating in regard to both major parties involved. I was vaguely aware of Claudius Linton, AKA Kingman, veteran roots singer who went from group to solo success in the ‘70s. Even so, he’s been rather inactive the last 20 years or thereabout and his work is mostly new to me. Ian “Jonah” Jones is the founder and overseer of Evil Genius Studio in Arlington, Virginia, where he reportedly produces and plays on independent rock releases that wouldn’t be likely to cross my path. He must be a great guy, though, since he’s here applied his hand to a deeply heartfelt and soulful mix of roots reggae and acoustic balladry. I’m not sure how these two hooked up, but they sure do bring out the best in each other.

Linton is the primary singer, and his Jimmy Riley-like tones blend with Jones’ bluesy coloring in a manner that’s rough but perfect, particularly on the electrified nyabinghi of Lonely Nights where the two trade off with unpolished grace. The more straight-up reggae tunes like Draw My Sword, So Wrapped Up and the title track get an extra jolt from Jones’ subtly rockish guitar while the few tracks that aren’t powered by a skanking groove keep the pace regardless. Best among these is Baghdad, with softly treading acoustic guitar, plain-spoken lyrics and droning background sounds suggestive of Sufi trance music combining to create a song very much of our times but echoing with the weariness of wars past as well.

The promotional materials accompanying the arrival of Sign Time draw comparisons between Claudius Linton and such masters as Bob Marley, Burning Spear and Culture. Pretty weighty parallels, but Linton lives up to them. Let’s hope he and Jones get together again sometime. Welcome back, Kingman. All hail.

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