Baldread & The Raggamuffin Crew

Inna Dancehall

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A reggae singer who calls his band the Raggamuffin Crew and titles his album Inna Dancehall is pretty clearly not making a bid for originality, and sure enough, this album is far from groundbreaking. But if you make it a habit to buy reggae albums looking for innovation and originality, then you're probably well inured to disappointment by now, and Inna Dancehall won't cause you any distress. In fact, if what you like is good old-fashioned roots and old-school dancehall grooves, then you'll probably find plenty to enjoy here. Baldread (aka Mustapha Craig Ward) is actually a bit more engaging when he's in a bouncy dancehall mood than when he's crooning a rootswise sufferer's anthem -- his brilliant "NyaB," "Jamaica Nice," and "Teach de Youth" all partake of a gently party-hearty vibe and showcase his singjay stylings to best effect; on "Who de Mon" he sounds like a cross between Amiri Baraka and the late Ras Pidow. The more rootswise "Crying" and "Running" and the halfhearted "Push Up" are all much less inspired, and on "Mother Africa" he lifts (unconsciously, perhaps) from middle-period Phil Collins. Overall, this is a generally satisfying if uneven album.

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