I first got to know New York City-based Predator Dub Assassins through the 2007 album “The Hardest.” It was as solid as the title suggested, a combination of roots rock reggae with a sprinkling of ska, a dash of dancehall, a pinch of pop. “Fully Qualified” is likewise true to its moniker, with PDA jamming strong under the guidance of P-Dub, a dreadlocked singer and multi-instrumentalist who can testify like a rootsman or mellow the vibe like any of the best lovers rock crooners.
Opening track “Back From the Dead” gets right down to it, sporting lyrics of spiritual renewal and a guitar-punctuated groove that hints of more goodness to come. That goodness arrives in the form of ska-meets-western-movie romp “Dreadlocks Rides Again,” a swaying love duet with Sonni Shine called “Can’t Get Away From You,” the suitably smoky “High Grade,” the twangy encouragement of “Holding Firm,” more ska (this time with a side of calypso) on “Live it Up,” crackling instrumental “John Boy’s Theme” (never heard any background music like that on “The Waltons”…) and more. There are 16 tracks and not a dud among them; thus “Fully Qualified” is full of top quality reggae.
“Frontline” is credited to P-Dub alone, although the words “music by P-Dub Assassins” can be glimpsed in the credits. While reggae is one aspect of the disc, there’s more in the way of digital beats and vocals with hip-hop cadences. So the roots crowd isn’t going to like it as much as “Fully Qualified.” I certainly don’t. Still, there are some good songs, notably “Lonely Road,” “Bless,” the title track and “Time is on Your Side.” P-Dub’s vocals are a treat no matter how they’re presented, and he’s got the range to appeal to both the roots and dancehall contingents. If the latter is your thing, check out “Frontline.” For traditionalists, stick with “Fully Qualified.”