Murder City Players

Speak No Evil

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The best American reggae band is either John Brown's Body or the Stubborn All Stars. But second place probably goes to the St. Louis-based Murder City Players who have been on the scene for almost 20 years playing modern reggae in a strictly roots style. The band's second album for the Nighthawk label finds them keeping up to their typically high standards in general, while not entirely avoiding the occasional misstep. The album actually opens on a weak note, with the rather tiresome two-chord party song "Wine and Come Up" (the Players use the two-chord approach to better effect on "Lead the Way"). Too, some might find the drum sound to be a bit weak and synthetic throughout. But among the album's finer moments are tributes to legendary DJ U Roy ("Tom Drunk") and ska pioneer Alton Ellis (the exquisite "Dance Crasher") and some excellent originals as well, including the slow-skanking "Never Get Away" and a ska-inflected sufferer's anthem titled "What Is This." At their best, as they frequently are, the Murder City Players make reggae that rivals the best Jamaican product.

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