Papa Rosko Explores Creative Approach to Reggae on Self-titled Debut (ALBUM REVIEW)

Papa Rosko, like many musicians, has settled in Nashville. However, when he was growing up, he lived in places like Turkey, the Philippines, Mexico, and Canada. At each stop, he absorbed the music that surrounded him. He fell in love with Caribbean music when he lived in Canada and had a friend from Trinidad.

On his self-titled album, you can tell that he has absorbed and incorporated a lot of different influences into his sound from reggae to blues to country.

Loads of artists have covered “Folsom Prison Blues. It seems like an unwritten rule that rockabilly bands cover the song. But no matter how many different versions of the song you’ve heard, you’ve probably not heard one like the version that opens this album. It features Toots Hibbert and a bass line that is pure reggae. Meanwhile, the slide guitar gives the song a bluesy feel.

“When You Say Nothing at All” is a similar crossover. On this one, Rosko is joined by dancehall artist Gyptian. The melody leans fittingly toward dancehall and ska while the vocals are closer to the country origins of the song.

Rosko inject some social commentary into the album with a couple different songs. Over a rock melody, he sings the very necessary message, “Nobody changed the world just by yelling and screaming.” The whole song is an indictment of what passes for news these days. “1984” is another song with a serious message. He sings about how we have somehow landed in the famous novel by George Orwell. The melody of this one is based in reggae while the instrumental sections are centered around loud rock guitars and some wailing sax. The vocals fit the mood of the song by sounding like they are being broadcast like a news bulletin over loud speakers.

You never know what to expect next on this album, and that’s not a bad thing. You can’t even say that he bounces from one genre to the other. He blends all of his influences into each song, creating a rich sound that is tough to resist. It’s not often that an artist can create an album that appeals equally to fans of various genres, but Papa Rosko has done it on this album. 

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