Young Tree

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The grassroots consensus on this American reggae band is mixed. On the one hand, there is simply no denying its outrageous way with a roots reggae groove; other than the justly celebrated John Brown's Body, there may not be another white reggae band that plays this music so idiomatically and powerfully. On the other hand, there's singer Harrison Stafford. Unfortunately, he sounds like the demon spawn of Apple Gabriel and Bob Marley, delivering his lyrics with a whiny intensity that he probably thinks denotes spirituality but really comes across as both self-aggrandizing and laughably derivative. When he sings (on "Confusing Situation") "They say Marley gone/But I say no, na na no, na na no," it's hard to know whether he's betraying a baffling lack of self-awareness or (even worse) deliberately casting himself as Marley's Second Coming. In any case, there's lots of great instrumental music bubbling along under Stafford's overwrought vocals, including the horn-heavy "Craven Fe' Dead" and the album's uplifting title track, not to mention the jazzy piano part on "Dream." If Stafford would just settle down and let the songs speak for themselves, these guys could probably produce an almost perfect album or two.

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