Dr. Ring-Ding

Diggin' up Dirt

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One of the world's greatest exponents of traditional ska and reggae hails not from Jamaica or England, or even New York City (which became ska's default capital in the mid-'90s) -- he's Germany's Dr. Ring Ding, an imposing singer, toaster and trombone player who leads a top-notch band from his home base in M√ľnster and speaks fluent Jamaican patois. In Dr. Ring Ding's hands, a style that could easily have devolved into nothing more than slavish imitation somehow turns into a sound that is simultaneously modern and old-fashioned, and very very exciting. Diggin' up Dirt consists of tracks originally recorded at various times during the late 1990s; for this collection, Dr. Ring Ding went back to the original tapes and tweaked them, sometimes subtly and sometimes drastically, creating dub versions, more restrained remixes and new collaborations with such Jamaican and American legends as Doreen Shaffer (on a great adaptation of Jackie Opel's "Turn Your Lamp Down Low" and a dub mix of "Time for Change"), Rocker-T, and King Django (on hard-skanking versions of "Sound Unity" and "Fight Over God"). The dubs are some of the most exciting tracks here; highlights include a fine dub mix of Tony Joe White's "Rainy Night in Georgia" and another of Dr. Ring Ding's own, "My Sound." An essential purchase for all fans of old-school reggae and ska.

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