Reggae Cowboys Rock Steady Rodeo

Toronto’s Reggae Cowboys have somehow melded reggae with country music on Rock Steady Rodeo, their second effort on Tumbleweed Records. They have managed to keep reggae’s upbeat “riddim,” while incorporating country-styled guitar licks and a western shuffle. When I first saw this album, I was a little sceptical. Reggae and country are completely different musical genres and sound nothing alike. Although Rock Steady Rodeo is only their second album, the Reggae Cowboys have an extremely tight sound, which may be why the strange brew of reggae/country sounds completely natural. Listening to this band brings the Bob Marley classic “Buffalo Soldier” to mind. Lead guitarist/vocalist Bird Bellony, (aka the Stone Ranger) has written politically-charged lyrics that would fit in nicely with any Wailers tune, and many of the songs are about the plight of Canada’s native people, using Marley’s “stand up for your right” attitude. Of Rock Steady Rodeo’s 13 songs, two are covers. The Cowboys’ version of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” is neither reggae nor country. It almost stays true to the original version, and Bellony proves he can sing more than just reggae. The other cover is, of course, a Bob Marley number. The classic “Redemption Song” is done instrumentally, with a twanging country guitar playing the famous “songs of freedom” vocal line. The Reggae Cowboys definitely have a unique sound, but on some songs the two genres clash and should have been either pure country (“Lighten Up”) or pure reggae (“Jesse’s Theme”). (Tumbleweed)