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Luciano

Serious Times (VP Records)

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Born a simple country boy in rural Jamaica, Jepther McClymont, aka Luciano, has become the premier roots singer of his generation. As one of the few top-shelf artists to hold firmly to the traditional reggae sound in a dancehall-dominated scene, he has earned the mantle once worn by Jacob Miller and Dennis Brown.

By now, 10 years after his breakthrough release Where There Is Life, you know what to expect: a mix of roots, dancehall, folk, country, and gospel, all delivered with his appealing voice and unflappable spirit. Commandeering the riddim behind Tanya Stephens's recent hit "It's a Pity," Luciano comes up with a better song, pound for pound, with the single "Stay Away." Eschewing Stephens's scandalous talk, he pleads for Jah children to avoid war and strife, backed by a triumphant horn section. The album occasionally gets overly mellow -- there are about two ballads too many -- but Luciano's ability to inspire far outweighs any other consideration.

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