Dave Hillyard and the Rocksteady 7 United Front

Laid back — that’s the way to describe the new DHR7 album, and it’s the perfect medicine for a hot day when your clothes stick to your body and there isn’t an air conditioner in sight. Compared to the groups 1999’s release, Playtime, a lively mix of ska, rocksteady, and jazz, United Front moves along at a snail’s pace. Much more jazz-centric than previous works, here the band uses the rocksteady base as a launching pad for an impressive mix of percussion and horns that weave in and out of the hypnotic groove laid down by the rhythm section. The album mostly showcases the skills of Dave Hillyard, one of the most important figures of the ’90s trad ska renaissance, but also features an impressive array of other musicians such as percussionist Larry McDonald (Taj Mahal, Gil Scott-Heron), guitarist Dave Hahn (Skinnerbox, New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble), and others. All the musicians are solid here, but unfortunately, their efforts may not be rewarded as greatly as they were for Playtime, as this new album is released on Do Tell Records, which doesn’t have the same clout as the band’s previous record label, Hellcat. It’s unfortunate because, although United Front is a step slower than Playtime, it is just as solid. (Do Tell)