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Roots Tonic & Bill Laswell - Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell

Released on Roir, 5/9/06

The ascent of Hasidic reggae superstar Matisyahu is largely attributable to said artistís considerable talents. However, no man is an island. Matisyahu is fortunate enough to have an excellent band, Roots Tonic, backing him up. There is little question that Roots Tonic has been an integral part of Matisyahuís success.

For those of the reggae persuasion and/or fans of Matisyahu, the debut album of Roots Tonic is not to be missed. Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell is an excellent primer on the gifts and skills this talented band brings to the table. The fusion of producer Bill Laswell and Roots Tonic is about the most harmonious partnership one could imagine.

Laswell produced Matisyahuís Youth and has worked with artists such as Herbie Hancock, Brian Eno, Mick Jagger, Motorhead, and countless others. Given the broad range of artists and styles Laswellís is familiar with, itís clear heís got the producing chops to work with a band like Roots Tonic, that eclectically mixes reggae, hip hop, soul, and traditional Jewish music.

The catalyst for Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell was the fruitful production of Matisyahuís Youth. Laswell and Roots Tonic segued almost immediately into Laswellís Orange Studios to launch the creative collaboration. Without relying on lyrics or vocals, Roots Tonic was on their own to deliver. The various tracks comprising the album are more than an indication that Roots Tonic can do so.

Roots Tonic gets off to a solid start with the cosmically trippy "Road to Axum". Itís an appropriately named track for an aural odyssey that seems to wind along a twisty, scenic road. The track runs well over five minutes, but never grows old. Far from it, "Road to Axum" grows on you the further into the journey one ventures. Punctuated by periodic phone touch tones, "Road to Axum" is a wonderful chill out track.

Not to be outdone, "Concrete Sunrise" follows and has a sound that is reminiscent of those lazy, late post debauchery mornings (afternoons?) that are rife with haziness and fog. Similarly long and leisurely, "Concrete Sunrise" has a sound that is soothing and vaguely hypnotic.

While many of the remaining tracks on Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell have a sound and rhythm that is similar to the aforementioned, itís a sound that works for the most part. Of course, this is provided that your taste encompasses an eclectic mix of chill out, hip hop, reggae, and soul. Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell is at the end of the day an excellent chill out album that is best complemented with low lighting, some candles, and perhaps some herbal decompression.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars