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Rebels With Cause by Tony Roots and Christine Miller

Rebels With Cause by Tony Roots and Christine Miller

Rebels With Cause by Tony Roots and Christine Miller

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Two well-suited vocalists collide for a pleasingly rootsy Conscious Sounds affair.

With their distinctive yet complementary voices, UK based roots heavyweights Tony Roots and Christine Miller make a good pairing on record. This showcase album was laid down with Hackney “reg-geezers” Bush Chemists at their Conscious Sounds studio and alternates between Roots’ irrepressible vitality and Miller’s soulful, regal smoothness for 10 polished, durable tracks plus dubs.

Some Bush Chemists productions have a tendency to absorb British electronic dance influences such as drum and bass (examples being Lutan Fyah’s 16 Years and the King General dubplate Got To Be Conscious). But Dougie Wardrop, the more vocal of the duo, has at times distanced himself from the “UK dub” tag, seeing their work as part of reggae’s broader tradition.

The rhythms used here certainly bear out this self-assessment. The first track Hail Him, sung by Roots, with its strong melody, stirring harmonies and organic sounding arrangements could easily have been produced in Jamaica, Germany or the US. Likewise, Roots Rock Reggae’s swinging beat and Marley referencing lyric and Keep The Faith’s “woy-de-woy” refrain (reminiscent of Bunny Wailer’s Armagideon) are as strictly roots as can be.

Yet the marks of the UK style inevitably come into play; particularly on Miller’s cuts and via the repetitive kick drums and Scientist inspired crashing snares of the versions. The final song, Miller’s Magnet To Steel abandons reggae altogether for a haunting slice of ethereal electro-pop.

Essentially, if you’re not conversant with the UK scene the aforementioned departures will make the most immediate impact. But if you are an enthusiast or just willing to persist, the rest of the album ushers you in, demonstrating the versatility of the producers as much as the two singers’ undoubted skills.

Copyright Angus Taylor 17th May 2009 ©

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