Backbeat Soundsystem ‘Together Not Apart’ CD/Dig (Easy Star) 3/5

backbeat-soundsystemIf the south-west of England is not generally regarded as hot bed of reggae music, then it is useful to remind oneself that Bristol has long championed roots reggae with Black Roots a key group in piecing together the UK reggae jigsaw puzzle of the late 1970s and 1980s. Cornwall-based band Backbeat Soundsystem are nonetheless treading unfamiliar territory and significantly have been financed for this project by fans, but on this accomplished and stylistically varied debut album they are likely in the near future to attract a wider audience. The group’s main selling point is that their brand of reggae stretches out beyond the sub-genres to a more mainstream audience while still maintaining their integrity. Roots influences are never far from the surface and all too evident on convincing numbers such as ‘Forever never’ with lovely bassline, keyboard effects and soulful vocals from leader Dean Forrest, who is also producer, while there is a strong steppers feel to ‘Against it all’ where the nasal vocals recall UB40 in their prime. However, the band look beyond roots on the pop-reggae of ‘I-Spy’ with catchy horns and dub echo. A possible single comes in the shape of ‘Losing faith’ which has a pop-ska appeal. Not everything works as well and maybe the DJ toasting could be toned down, or at least less prominent. That said, this band can really play and are only going to improve with age. A first UK tour is being undertaken during April and one that is focussed primarily on the south-west and south-east of England.

Tim Stenhouse