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Big Sugar: Yard Style (2014) - Exystence

They’ve sold around half a million albums in Canada, mostly during their ’90s heyday, but Big Sugar have never quite been given the credit they deserve for skilfully integrating reggae and dub elements into their rock-based sound. On Yard Style, they dial down the volume to concentrate on acoustic yet percussion-heavy reggae, to convincing effect. Main man Gordie Johnson has described the record as one based on the rolling (in more meanings than one perhaps) jam sessions the band conduct prior to doing a rock show. They have reworked classic Big Sugar tracks like “100 Cigarettes” and “Turn the Lights On,” and they fit snugly alongside new originals. Frequent collaborator Willi Williams (the reggae legend best known for the Clash-covered ”Armagideon Time”) sits in, making a mark on album highlight “Messenger Man.” At 65 minutes in length, Yard Style could have benefitted from some editing, but it remains an appealingly mellow collection sure to go down as a treat at backyard summer parties. It’s an intriguing and worthy creative detour.

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