Fronteras - Canaman
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cd cover It's no longer necessary to travel to Jamaica to record reggae that sounds true to form. Still, such non-Jamaican reggae artists as Alpha Blondy, Gondwana and Zema have made the trek in order to capture the right vibe. Spain's Canaman can count themselves among the adventurous roots-seekers, the strength and reach of their latest cd testifying to the fact that it was worth the trip. The opening track (save for a brief and unpleasantly tinny intro) is the anthemic "Canaman Reggae," which praises the joy of, among other things, "canta marihuana." Indeed, the liner note closeup photos of ganja being blissfully consumed are as blunt (pun possibly intended) and defiant as the militant reggae Canaman crank out.

The "Marihuana" theme is revisited, evil "Vampiros" are handily put in their place, and Jamaican grooves mix it up with other tropic zone sounds on such tracks as "Rasta Fiesta" and "Reggae da Capoeira." It's mostly roots, though rip-roaring chunks of dancehall do some burning as well. And talk about impressive guest artists- Sly and Robbie, Marcia Griffiths, Capleton, Anthony B, Bongo Herman, Dean Fraser and more chip in, giving the whole thing a feel that's equal parts foundational and contemporary. Standout selections include the title track (the melodic tag of which is based on Freddie McGregor's "Across the Border"), "Sweet Music" with its mid-song funk breakout and the lively "Free Your Mind." Jamaica may be just another tourist trap to some, but it's also a prime destination for reggae musicians with a working vacation in mind. - Tom Orr

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