African reggae can add another young star to its roster. Ghanaian Rocky Dawuni joins the Ivory Coast's Alpha Blondy, Nigeria's Majek Fashek, and South Africa's Lucky Dube in the battle for the roots reggae crown. On Crusade, Dawuni pulls no punches. The musical references to Bob Marley are unmistakable - for example "Sufferer" sounds strikingly like a lost track from Rastaman Vibration. Dawuni's sweet voice and the lead guitar lines in particular invoke the ascended master, but Dawuni is not apishly imitating Marley.
On Crusade, Dawuni shows promising diversity in his songwriting and performance. The bouncy "Inside Your Head" is followed by the plaintive but positive "Sweet Bright Day," and the simmering "Crusade." Happily, Dawuni was able to record using a minimum of electronic surrogate instruments, giving the album the full sound that the catchy tunes and thundering bass register calls for. The effects Dawuni uses are varied and well-chosen, from the standard backing vocals to the unusual, but fitting flute. Dawuni's catchy roots tunes about social problems and unity of the oppressed are pretty universal, except for the anthemic "In Ghana," in which he calls for Ghanaian rastas to bring an end to suffering in his homeland. A new national anthem? Maybe not. But if Dawuni keeps it up, Ghana will have a national symbol on the level of Blondy, Fashek, and Dube. - Craig Tower
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