Earl Rodney
Friends & Countrymen

[EM Records, www.emrecords.net]

Continuing the ground-breaking Steel Pan series, EM Records ventures into Trinidad to re-issue another crucial blast from the past. This time around, on the podium we find Earl Rodney and his 1973 album "Friends & Countrymen". I have to admit this guy is rock solid. Having been involved with steel pans nearly since the inception of the instrument, Rodney devoured the pans at a tender age of 4. With practice comes pure mastery, which is what this album delivers in bounty. Rodney plays alto pan, African drums, bass as well as providing tid-bits of vocals that are sprinkled across a few of the tracks. Freddy Harris provides some jangly wah-wah guitar melodies, while Simeon "Oxley" Caballero gives off some solid trombone goodness. What's more is Cape's lively alto sax blows. Leader's pan magic is unmistakable in its vibrancy and its breezy feel though this is not to say that it's fluffy in any sense. The party moves along steadily but the most raunchy number doesn't arrive until the title track, which happens to be the finale. This is where everyone screams, wails, and rocks to a steady island rhythm. The album was recorded after Rodney emigrated to the US, so there's a sense of melancholia spread across a couple of the piece. Otherwise, this is an explosive party that is waiting for good company, liquor, smoke and whatever else you may need to make it real.

- Tom Sekowski


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