Natty Man Like I Review

Album. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

The next Bob Marley? Try the new Finlay Quaye.

Angus Taylor 2008

With his name, dreadlocks, and easily comprehendible patois, Natty has been hailed by the mainstream press as an up-and-coming reggae artist, even drawing hyperbolic comparisons with Bob. It's a categorisation that seems to cause him discomfort – although not enough to avoid signing up for Boss Sounds, the UK's biggest reggae festival, and has sparked debate as to whether his eclectic blend of styles is tribute or dilution.

Debut album, Man Like I, proves it to be neither. If you've even a passing interest in reggae there is little on offer from this disc. Positioned slightly to the left of the jolly mockney hockeysticks of Lily and Kate, Natty's songs are a more rhythmic, culturally diverse take on the great British tradition of confessional summer music.

Natty clearly knows his way around a studio, having got his breaks (and some free session time, no doubt) as an engineer. He also understands that the finest records fuse the sounds of the country and city. Badman's rapid-fire MC delivery rides jazzy guitar chords and furious hand drums. July has a folksy harmonica, a clear Jamaican afterbeat and words conceived in the throws of young love.

It's easy to sneer at guileless lyrical indiscretions like Coloured Souls' "sometimes we jump the trainfare to get to where we're going" (Peter Tosh must be shaking in his boots) and the "hoodies" "you get me's" and "ends" straight from "yoof speak" central casting – but these also have a certain exuberant charm. What limits Natty's appeal is an inability to laugh at himself: the very best pop has a universal sense of fun - yet even his non-political songs take themselves so seriously that they betray his tender years.

The more seasoned listener wanting to hear Rasta concerns over intelligent pop should check Winston McAnuff's peerless 2006 album Paris Rockin'. If, however, you're just after some vaguely rootsy chillout music – and don't care much for reggae or its history – Natty's got the tunes and the summer vibes to make you smile. The next Bob Marley? Try the new Finlay Quaye.

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