Something unprecedented is happening with white reggae stylists in North America. Where previous groups, like Big Mountain, might have seen the music as a cheap, roundabout ticket to blackness, younger acts are beginning to inject their own cultural personalities. Toronto's Bedouin Soundclash may not carry the spiritual weight of Matisyahu's Orthodox Judaism, but it does add a tuneful, tasteful rock and folk influence. Singer Jay Malinowski goes easy on the false patois and has a scratchy, passionate delivery slightly reminiscent of Stiff Little Fingers' Jake Burns in Jamaican mode. The music isn't tarted up a bit by pop or R&B, but rather approached with a typically Canadian austerity, with plenty of space between the brittle guitars and loose rhythms. In the group's sharpest moments, such as the great "Johnny Go to New York," Bedouin Soundclash sounds like a rock band with a Caribbean fetish -- and for once, that's a good thing.
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