David Kirton

Stranger

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Although reggae's deepest roots are in American soul and R&B music (and its earliest practitioners were candid in acknowledging that debt), not many modern reggae performers have incorporated R&B influences as explicitly as David Kirton does on his debut album -- at least not many who weren't making deliberate crossover bids, like Maxi Priest and UB40. This Barbados-born singer has a vocal style that draws primarily on vintage reggae (David Hinds and Bob Marley are obvious influences) with the occasional soul inflection. But the rhythmic drive of these songs owes as much to Detroit as it does to Kingston -- on "Stranger" and "Reggae City," in particular, the song arrangements percolate with a funky strut that seems miles away from the laid-back shuffle one normally associates with reggae. "Cool Breezin'" is more rootsy, and sounds for all the world like middle period Steel Pulse, and there's also a respectful nod to the Nyabinghi tradition on "Thanks and Praise." Things get a bit tenuous on "Culture Fusion," an ill-advised cross between conscious reggae and smooth jazz; however, the genre-hopping works beautifully on the soulful lover's rock of "Show Me Your Lovin'." Overall, this is a highly satisfying example of what a talented youngster can do with a reggae background and a healthy range of outside musical interests.

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