Black Roots ‘Ghetto Feel’ (Soul Beats) 4/5

black-rootsBristol-based group Black Roots, alongside Misty in Roots, Matumbi and Aswad were pioneers of the roots reggae sound in the bleak days of 1970s Britain and deservedly belong to that elite of roots reggae musicians. Furthermore, they became something of a cult formation for BBC radio 1 DJ John Peel and were regularly championed by and recorded studio sessions for him. After a break from the recording process, they returned in 2012 with a critically acclaimed album ‘On the ground’ and repeat the classic formula of social-laden message and high quality roots performance on this latest project. There is certainly a nod towards the Jamaican roots masters Culture in the use of collective horns and this is immediately apparent on the opening song, ‘Cloudy night’, with some deliciously smooth collective vocal harmonies that are a feature throughout the album, and here a respectful ode to Jah Rastafari. On the uptempo rockers of ‘Bad Mind’, there is an emphasis firmly on the groove and with thirty-five years in the business this is something that they have now perfected to a tee. A bouncy rockers beat permeates the supremely well crafted ‘A wah so?’ with lovely use of keyboards while for an alternative moody minor blues feel, the band excel on the title track with the keyboard in the foreground, unison horn lines and softly delivered soulful vocals. Elsewhere, there is an impassioned plea for ‘Peace and love’ in the ghetto with a lovely extended trumpet solo. The band’s love of Culture re-emerges on the bright and uplifting ‘Reclaim’. What this album demonstrates above all else is that quality roots reggae music can emanate from Britain and on this objective alone, Black Roots deliver emphatically.

Tim Stenhouse