Westbound Train


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Westbound Train has been skanking around the Boston scene since the new millennium got under way, and Transitions is the group's third album and their debut for the Hellcat label. Like Bim Skala Bim, the godfather of the Beantown ska scene, the septet's trad sound is fired by emotive, soulful vocals. And although they're not quite as polished as Bim yet, this Westbound Train is still bound for the big time. On this 16-song set, the band showcases the Transitions that drove the Jamaican scene through the '60s, from the horn-drenched, jazz-flavored numbers of ska, through the sweet, harmony drenched sounds of rocksteady, and on to the rougher, more adamant rhythms of early reggae. The band are equally adept at all these genres, and freely adapt them to their needs, bringing the music full circle with the inclusion of '60s American influences as well -- Motown, Stax, funk and even rock weave their way through Westbound's sound. Obviously, those labels and styles heavily influenced the Jamaicans as well, but Westbound utilize them in more traditional American ways than their island counterparts ever did. As for the songs themselves, there are so many great ones within that it seems self-defeating to play favorites. Be it the nod to Dave & Ansel Collins on the incendiary "Soul Revival" that counter-intuitively boasts a great sax solo, the ebullient calypso-mento tribute "Fatty Boom Boom!" (the perfect entry for the Jamaican Independence Festival Song competition, except for its composers' nationality, of course), or the glorious proto-roots meets Motown of "Travel On," this album is stuffed with instant classics of every genre. The bustling reggae of "Please Forgive Me," the sweet harmonies spilling across "I'm No Different," the strutting vocals on "The Runaround," the emotional vocal performances elsewhere, and through the rousing instrumentals and stirring solos splattered across the set, Transitions isn't just an homage to the past, but a reinvention of all its power and glory.

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