UB40

Getting Over the Storm

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The long-standing reggae-pop group UB40 could play it smooth and silky long before they had a hit with their cover version of "Red Red Wine," but that cut became so massively successful it evolved into an annoyance for some. It's the same curse Bobby McFerrin experienced after "Don't Worry Be Happy" pigeonholed him as a sweet, novelty hit curio, but like Bobby, UB40 always deserved better, so anyone claiming this "reggae country album" is garish or desperate just hasn't put the needle to groove. Besides, country songs have long found their way into reggae music, from Toots & the Maytals taking John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads" to West Jamaica to UB40 backing Robert Palmer on "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," plus, it's had more to do with the song itself than the genre. Best example of that here is the group's inventive take on Vince Gill's "If You Ever Have Forever in Mind," which comes on with soulful horn-section uplift like it was Earth, Wind & Fire, but the steel guitar playing of special guest Melvin Duffy is welcome here too, because wherever these seasoned veterans land, it becomes Music City. Duffy skillfully rocks up the rhythm of "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live," an old political number the band discovered via Ry Cooder. Heartbreak, yearning, and cheating fill the rest of these tracks from George Jones, Willie Nelson, and others, and don't be surprised when the dour moments are handled with sweetness (smooth croons, easy rhythms) and light (bright horns, slick production, and a giddy version of "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain"), because in smooth reggae, that's the quickest way to get to Irie. Lead singer Duncan Campbell does a fine job on his second album after the departure of his brother Ali, and with inspired song choices meeting an inspired band, Getting Over the Storm doesn't come off as a gimmick but a gift.

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