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Reggae’s Gone Country? John Rich Says Yes, Helms New Fusion Album

Our Country

Here's a fact that I bet most country fans aren't too aware of: A lot of Jamaican artists are huge lovers of country music.

Yes--I mean the artists that give us reggae, dub, dancehall, and basically the kind of music you'd expect Kenny Chesney to be sitting on his beach listening to. You might not expect his music to be listened to in return, but that's apparently not so.

Surprised? Well, it seems to be true, based on a new release coming out August 30 that takes the concept of blending reggae with country and runs with it. Reggae's Gone Country is being released by Warner Music Nashville and VP Records, which is the biggest reggae label in the world--and it features an all-star cast established and up-and-coming reggae artists performing country classics by such artists as George Jones, Patsy Cline, Marty Robbins, George Strait, Kenny Rogers, and more. 

What's more, it has the stamp of modern Nashville on it too. "It's this crazy cool idea," says Celebrity Apprentice/Big & Rich/hit songwriter John Rich, who produced the album along with Jamaican legend Dean Fraser. "Taking some of the old country stuff and putting their beats, their instrumentation around it."

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Can't quite wrap your head around the idea of a Rasta grooving to "The Gambler" or "He Stopped Loving Her Today"? Rich himself admitted that he didn't realize how much Jamaicans loved country music until he started this project. But, it turns out the two musical styles were basically meant for each other and meld together beautifully. Some of the tunes chosen for the record fit with stunning why-didn't-I-realize-this-before? clarity into reggae's trademark off-beat rhythm (the Statler Brothers' "Flowers On The Wall," peformed by Jamaican vocal group L.U.S.T, is a perfect example).

Which didn't shock anyone involved in the project--after all, both genres are known for their personal, heartfelt, and often spiritual or political content; highly distinctive sound; and cultural impact. Furthermore, country music "definitely comes from the grassroot," notes Dean Fraser, comparing Nashville to Jamaican capital Kingston.

If you're still skeptical at whether these two musical genres can truly blend, just have a look at this video. As Rich noted, it really is "crazy cool." As a bonus, check out the solo appearance from Larry Gaitlin belting out the Gaitlin Brothers' '79 hit "California" (yep, it's in there--and yes, Gaitlin does appear on the album as well. Enjoy!).

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