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Survivalist 

The Art of Survival (Mastermind Records)

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If any Clevelander stands the chance of breaking into the international reggae market, it's Survivalist. The Jamaican-born sing-jay is young and charismatic, and he crafts a killer tune. The Art of Survival, his second full-length release, is one of Cleveland's best reggae albums.

Survivalist's commanding vocal presence stands out front, most notably on the urgent chanting of "Feeling Irie." Other straight-ahead gems like "Hey Now" and the disc-opening "King of Kings" use odd rhythms and unusually placed drumbeats while still reflecting the singer's passion for traditional reggae, resulting in a masterful blend of contemporary roots and pure dancehall. Ultra-mellow cuts such as "Woman You're a Star" and "In Love With a Stranger" successfully fuse Jamaican sounds with modern R&B, aided by subtle guitar playing.

Survivalist is moving reggae forward, while many better-known artists stick with the tried-and-true. Eventually, they'll be left behind by the major talent blossoming here.

Speaking of Regional Beat

More by Tommy Fox

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