Horace Andy, Serious Times coverHorace Andy – “Serious Times” [Minor7Flat5 / Groove Attack, 2010]

Horace Andy has had his irons in many fires, from his early work in Jamaica for producers Phil Pratt, Coxsone Dodd and Bunny Lee to hits with Everton DaSilva and Bullwackie’s on the NYC reggae scene to a couple of albums as a member of techno/dub outfit Massive Attack. His recent Sly and Robbie-anchored album Livin’ It Up showed Andy to be in peak form, which came as no surprise to anyone who’s followed his career.

He’s always at his best when roots is the focus, and his new Serious Times finds Andy still concerned with the sort of subject matter he sang about on his hit “Serious Thing” decades ago. Plus, that signature voice of his – that gravelly, icy, elastic moan that probes the upper register with both whispery restraint and measured force – likewise remains. Andy can emphasize a word or phrase like no other, as shown by the trademark stuttered vowels that make, for example, the title track sound all the more foreboding and a love song like “Crazy” even sweeter.

The all-real instrumental backing, played by the likes of Horsemouth Wallace, Daniel “Axman” Thompson, Dean Fraser and Bongo Herman, does some sweetening of its own under the sure hand of guitarist/producer Andreas “Brotherman” Christophersen, who combines an authentic roots feel with just a dash of contemporary sheen. Thus the riddims are rich and dubby and give Andy both foundation and space for the testimony of “So Real” and “Rastafari,” yearnings for “Life” and “Love,” weighing in on the credibility of “False Witness” and “Rumors of War” and putting his all into every moment of this consistently excellent release.