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When Reggae Meets Country Music

No, don’t go! It’s not what you think! It’s good, I promise! Country Got Soul’s Jeb Loy Nichols, whose new album is a collaboration with and legendary dub producer Adrian Sherwood, has put together a playlist of reggae artists interpreting country songs. More from Nichols:

There was, in the 60s and 70s, no stopping the influence of American Southern music. Blues, jazz, country and soul, most all of which began life in the south, ruled the world. One crucial intersection was the West Indies. Louisiana and Texas radio stations broadcast southern music to an enthusiastic Caribbean audience. Sailors too, from the southern ports, took records with them. Soon Jamaican producers like Coxone Dodd and Duke Reid were visiting the States and coming home with rare records for their sound systems. Country music in particular was a favourite with Jamaicans. Johnny Cash had a house in Jamaica his whole life, as did Charley Pride. One of the first big ska tunes, Music Is My Occupation, by the Skatalites, borrows Cash’s horn riff from Ring Of Fire. I remember, in Texas in the mid-seventies, hearing four different versions of the song “Reunited” (by Peaches And Herb) on the radio: the soul version, a country version, a Conjunto Spanish language version, and a reggae version. Southern music has never been a respecter of boundaries

These songs began life as country hits by Freddy Fender, Ray Price, Charley Pride, Hank Locklin, and Tammy Wynette. Songs like “This Train” and “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” were sung in churches all across the south. We also have Freddy Fender, a Spanish speaking Texan swamp pop star, recording for Louisiana soul man Huey Meaux, on a track that Meaux bought in Jamaica, and to which he added Mexican horns. The song is a country classic sung in Spanish. At the same time, in Jamaica, John Holt was recording Freddy Fender country songs (“Before The Next Teardrop Falls” and “Wasted Days And Wasted Nights”) to huge success. It all makes some kind of messy sense.

If you don’t want to take my word—and I’m not gonna lie, it hurts that you don’t—that this is one of the more enjoyable things you’ll hear all month, perhaps a program guide can convince you to give it a chance? The tracks included are:

Culture, “This Train”

John Holt, “Before The Next Teardrop Falls”

Merlene Webber, “Stand By Your Man”

Cornel Campbell, “Country Boy”

The Bleechers, “Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On”

Gregory Isaacs, “The End Of The World”

Freddy Fender, “My Two Empty Arms

John Holt, “Wasted Days And Wasted Nights”

June Lodge / Prince Mohammed, “Someone Loves You Honey”

Noel Brown, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”

Ken Parker, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken”

I am not going to tell you that knowledge of the source material will not make this more enjoyable, but I will definitely tell you that this is so enjoyable that such knowledge is in no way a requirement. Anyway, why are you still reading this? Press play and enjoy.

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