Album: Little Axe

Champagne & Grits, REALWORLD
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The Independent Culture

The fourth album from the On-U Sound offshoot Little Axe is a more focused, song-orientated affair than 2002's Hard Grind. The presence of singers such as Junior Delgado, Shara Nelson - terrific on the slow, oozing groove of "Say My Name" - and former Squeeze man Chris Difford (who co-writes "All In The Same Boat") more firmly defines the character of individual tracks. The old blues and gospel samples are just as much in evidence as before, but they're often treated or time-stretched into a tapestry of cavernous moans and groans, which give a swirling, miasmic atmosphere to tracks such as "Will I Ever Get Back Home Again" and "Go Away Devil". But the personality of the guitarist/Little Axe prime mover Skip McDonald is more positively impressed on proceedings, his acoustic guitar imparting a gentle Mexican flavour to "Cloud", and an authentic country-blues tone to "Mean Things", an adaptation of an old union song: "Stuck on a conveyor, from the cradle to the grave/ Have you not noticed how the masses are enslaved?". The pro-underdog, anti-capitalist attitude prevails throughout, with a keen regard for the shared righteousness of gospel music and roots-reggae in tracks such as the concluding "Run Sinners".