Black Uhuru

Cowboy Town

Composed by Delroy Reid

Song Review by

Although Black Uhuru had continued to actively court the international market throughout the '80s, they never entirely lost touch with Jamaica. Junior Reid was equally adept at writing songs for either audience, and occasionally both at once, as with "Cowboy Town." Co-produced by the band and Steven Stanley, the song is a rich brew of dancehall and roots with a decidedly Western flair. The arrangement is extremely clever; built around a fat rhythm, "Cowboy Town" boasts a host of seemingly disparate elements: cloppity percussion, echoing gunfire, a haunting synth passage, plush new wave-esque keyboards, and dollops of dub. The chorus in close harmony is classic Uhuru, but Reid toasts his way across the rest of the piece, and together the trio beautifully links dancehall and roots. Once again, the group was bringing culture to a dancehall scene in the thrall of gunmen, where gangsters and outlaws were revered. And as the gunfire reverberates, Reid gives warning of the inevitable outcome before counseling, "Young man put your weapon down/This is not a showdown!" Hundreds upon hundreds of anti-violence songs have been aimed at Jamaica's gunslingers, but few were as musically creative as "Cowboy Town," and it was one of the highlights of the group's Positive album.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Positive 1992 RAS Records / Ras 3:51
Ras Portraits 1997 BMG / BMG / Trojan 3:51
This Is Crucial Reggae 2004 RAS Records 3:54
blue highlight denotes editor's pick