Engine 54

Run for the Money

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Olympia, WA's Engine 54 proved themselves to be one of the best traditionally influenced ska bands with Run for the Money, their second and possibly last album. With some strong horn charts, especially on the up-tempo "Hustlerman" and "Rain," and a rhythm section like a metronome (although bassist Chris Sutton seems to take more from the Two Tone era with his busyness than old Jamaican ska). What's interesting, however, is that they also seem to have hippie tendencies -- "Empty" sounds like the Grateful Dead playing ska, for instance, and "Pathway to the Soul" has decidedly paisley overtones. But they blow all that out with something like "Rudeboy's Serenade," a great anthem of a song, and "Lose You," where they slow it down. Dylan Ksa might not have the most powerful voice, but his crooning actually works well in the band's framework. And their New Orleans-meets-Jamaica take on Fats Domino's "Be My Guest" shows a natural collision of cultures. They're not afraid to try new things, while remaining true to ska's root -- but pushing the envelope a little is how music develops naturally. A decidedly enjoyable record.

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