A New Day

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It's rare to find a reggae singer these days who is able to draw audiences equally from the dancehall and roots crowds, but that's exactly what Luciano does, attracting fans of modern reggae with the up-to-the-minute grooves provided by his great Firehouse Crew band (and, on his latest album, the legendary drum'n'bass duo of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare) while simultaneously keeping the loyalty of the roots-and-culture crowd with the heartfelt spirituality of his lyrics. On A New Day, he opens with a long, hypnotic exercise in nyabinghi hymnody, the gently stirring repatriation anthem "No Night in Zion," then proceeds to deliver 16 more songs of spiritual uplift, all of them powered by soft-textured but deep and weighty roots rhythms. Particular highlights include the plaintive "Is There a Place?" and the soulful, horn-driven "Only a Fool." Even the spare and dubwise "Hardcore," which at first sounds like just another dancehall boast, turns out to be a declaration of religious faithfulness. Very impressive.

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