CD Reviews (March/April 2011)

The new music that are reflecting the region right now


Black Gold

Toussaint

As his father was a Baptist preacher, Paul Barrett grew up singing gospel in his hometown of Kokomo, Indiana, but he became deeply immersed in the reggae scene, taking the stage name Toussaint the Liberator in reference to Haitian freedom fighter Toussaint L’Ouverture.  

Toussaint fronted a Jamaican roots band called Buru Style and a later group called Trauma Unit. Then he connected with Laurent “Tippy I” Alfred, the Haitian-born veteran of Yale Law School who founded I-Grade Records, resulting in this non-standard reggae album, marked by shades of soul, jazz and R&B.

Recorded mostly at St Croix’s Aqua Sounds with the cream of the USVI reggae scene and the ace Jamaican drummer Carlton “Santa” Davis, it gets further contours from the legendary dub mixer Scientist and a guest appearance by Guyana-born toaster Jahdan Blakkamoore. But Toussaint’s relaxed and emotive tenor is the true focal point.  On tracks like “Nobody Knows”, “This Song”, and the highly personal “Patient”, he really shines, the expressiveness of his voice matching the originality of his lyrics.

Some songs deal with relationship issues, others have political overtones, and some deal with matters of faith. But the whole project is probably best summed up by the number “Roots in a Modern

Time”, a contemporary take on the late 1970s sound of Steel Pulse.

David Katz