On the surface, country music and reggae might seem like polar opposites. Island vibes and down-home twang aren’t exactly a match made in heaven. However, the two genres are alike in spirit. Both genres have their roots in economically disadvantaged communities. At the same time, the best lyrics in country and reggae tell the stories of the artists who create the music and the people who enjoy it. As a result, the two styles of music blend better than you’d think. Country Goes Reggae proves that.
The Berman Brothers envisioned and produced Country Goes Reggae, and a group of celebrated Jamaican musicians and sound engineers called Positive Vibrations brought it to life. The band includes Ian “Beezy” Coleman (Ziggy Marley, The Fugees), Guillaume “Stepper Sax” Briard, Henry “Matic” Tenyue (UB40, Aswad, Dennis Brown), and Devon Bradshaw (Burning Spear).
According to Jamaica Observer, the Berman Brothers were enjoying drinks at a beach bar around sunset, listening to reggae classics, when a car drove by blasting some American country music. That split-second blend of sounds and cultures put the brothers on the road to this record.
How Does Country Goes Reggae Sound?
So, how does this record sound? To quote the late great John Prine, “Pretty good.”
If you’re into the syncopated island rhythm and staccato horns of reggae and the songwriting of country music, you’re probably going to like this album. If not, I don’t know what to tell you. Each song on the record features the original singer with a full-blown reggae band behind them.
To be honest, not all of these tracks translate well. However, when they work, they really work. When things don’t quite mesh, it can be a little jarring. But if you keep your ears locked into the laid-back grooves that Positive Vibrations produce, even the lowest points on the record are a good time.
Hits and Misses
Dolly Parton’s “Two Doors Down” from 1978’s Here You Come Again sounds great with the island instrumentation. More than that, it sounds like Dolly had a ball re-recording her vocals for the track. Additionally, Uncle Kracker’s “Smile” sounds like it was written to be a laid-back reggae tune. The same could be said for Landon Parker’s “Save It for a Rainy Day.”
Maybe the most surprising high points of Country Goes Reggae, though, are Randy Houser’s “Boots On” and Alabama’s “Pass It On Down.”
There’s something about Houser singing about his “granny-beaded neck” with the reggae instrumentation and a hint of echo on his microphone that hits just right. Moments like this, I believe, are what this album is all about. It’s a perfect blend of “Yee-haw” and “Irie.”
However, the updated instrumentation does nothing for songs like Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup.” The ode to disposable drinkware just doesn’t fit the vibe. The same can be said for Lainey Wilson’s “Things a Man Oughta Know,” which is a top-notch song in its original form.
In short, Country Goes Reggae is worth checking out for fans of both reggae and country. However, don’t expect it to become your new favorite album.
Country Goes Reggae Tracklist
- Eyes on You (feat. Chase Rice)
- Make Me Want To (feat. Jimmie Allen)
- Red Solo Cup (feat. Toby Keith)
- I Like the Sound of That (feat. Rascal Flatts)
- Two Doors Down (feat. Dolly Parton)
- Smile (feat. Uncle Kracker)
- Things a Man Oughta Know (feat. Lainey Wilson)
- Boots On (feat. Randy Houser)
- Pass It On Down (feat. Alabama)
- Ready to Run (feat. Alexandra Kay)
- Save It For A Rainy Day (feat. Landon Parker)