Nasio Fontaine

Universal Cry

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On his fourth album, Dominican-born reggae singer Nasio Fontaine continues to work a version of modern roots reggae that owes a tremendously deep debt to Bob Marley -- a debt that is clear not only in Fontaine's highly derivative vocal tone and phrasing, but also in the dry and tensile midtempo lope of his songs. This isn't really a criticism; Marley had a great sound and didn't have time to use it all up before his tragically early death, so if others want to pick it up and run with it, so much the better, as long as the songs can bear the weight. By this point, Fontaine has clearly proved himself up to the task, even if his songs are sometimes quiet and polite enough that they tend to fade somewhat into the background. That's what happens on the pleasant but unexceptional "She Lost Track" and the rather generic "Crucial"; "Hypocrites" boasts a more aggressive rockers beat, which helps to raise its profile a bit, and the horn-driven "Jah Calling" does so even more effectively. "Reggae Music" is a piece of throwaway, meta-reggae fluff, but the album-closing nyahbinghi anthem "Behold" hides multiple layers of musical beauty beneath deceptively simple sounding percussion. Overall, Universal Cry is a satisfying effort from a major reggae talent.

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