Burning Spear | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Burning Spear


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On his new album, Freeman (Burning Music), Burning Spear (aka Winston Rodney) upholds the banner of roots reggae, the bedrock Jamaican music that focuses on the harsh realities of ghetto life and the positive mental attitude needed to survive them. A contemporary of artists like Bob Marley, Junior Byles, and the Wailing Souls, he's never been a follower of fashion; you won't hear any guest MCs dropping rapid-fire dancehall toasts on his tracks, or digital dub production flourishes, or lyrics about sexual conquest and conspicuous consumption. Musically he remains committed to loping, oddly shaped melodies that layer airy vocal harmonies and succinct horn charts on a foundation of guitar, organ, and deep bass; lyrically, he's still expounding on his unswerving devotion to the precepts of black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey and the Rastafarian faith. But if new Burning Spear albums yield few surprises, there's no doubt that he's still got it: the 12 new tracks on Freeman have the same elegance, conviction, and soul that made 1978's Social Living (recently reissued by Island Records) such a classic. Rodney's authoritative voice is equal parts sandpaper and silk, and the meticulous layering of instruments around it more than compensates for his somewhat limited range. He's a fine performer, and his shows never go light on his classics. Saturday, September 27, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000.

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