February 25, 2010

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Alborosie, Escape From Babylon to the Kingdom of Zion
Greensleeves Records, Feb. 16

Like a Sasha Cohen character, Alberto D’Ascola is a blazing neon anomaly of the reggae world, born and raised in Sicily but since become a fixture of rastafari culture based in its Jamaican ground zero over the last few years. One would imagine success at this requires becoming one of the guys who creep onstage only when the tourists have finished loading up on blingy dancehall and thankfully bugged off — it’s supposed to be about Jah, remember, not the notches on Terror Fabulous’s bedpost — but sound-wise Alborosie straddles the middle, not the Rappin’ Granny misfit-spectacle he could easily be but not a long-lost love-child of Marley either. He works the hypno-bag first, celebrating his relo in “Kingston Town” with basic but reverent skank made more irresistable by a stream of dreamy-then-raspy lines echoing and dripping from horse-track loudspeakers, the production value falling somewhere between what hard-liners and bikini-and-baseball-cap chicks would want. Steel Pulse’s David Hinds brightens up the spaces Alborosie’s Fat Albert imitation can’t reach in the bloopy-bubbly sensimilla-puffer “Steppin’ Out.” B — EWS