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Various Artists Universal Message Vol. 3

While digital dancehall noisily continues its breakneck evolution, roots reggae has benefited from its own quiet revival, fighting negativity and struggle with conscious lyricism and bright, spacious arrangements hearkening back to roots reggae‘s ‘70s heyday. Of note is Chuck Fender‘s "I Swear," which laces up Fender‘s cyclonic vocal with angelic female backing and live-band arrangement. Roots bands don‘t have a stranglehold on the message, however, as Sizzla takes us from drum machines to a gentle sway on "Ain‘t Gonna See Us Fall." Richie Spice slides into an easy dub-skank on "Blood Again," his vocals shot through with a slightly metallic reverb. But it‘s Tanya Stephens who proves queen of both hard and soft reggae with her soul drenched "What Ah Day," emoting over a simple acoustic guitar.

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