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Ram-Bam (RAM0008)

Unlockable Hips, Rope By Rope, Run Sister Run, No Wheels-A, Right Here In My Arms, Doo Wop Christmas, Don’t Have To Worry, Look What’cha Done, Joy Of Life, Yo’ Mine All Mine, What Good’s Life Still Giving?

Never one to let the grass grow under his feet, Finland’s finest bluesman finds yet another set of musical collaborators for this new album. And quite a departure it is too, joining forces this time with Finland’s in-demand ska and reggae band, Funky Kingstone.

There are of course some musical collaborations that should work but don’t. There are other musical collaborations that shouldn’t work but do. Yet this is something else again - a musical collaboration that should work and very much does, and the evidence is here for all to hear across 11 stonking new tracks.

From the first few bars of the opening track, Unlockable Hips, a groovy and atmospheric instrumental with a gorgeous 1960s retro feel, you just know you are onto a winner. The band’s bubble-gum reggae groove lays the foundation for Jo’ Buddy spindly R&B guitar riffs and the only disappointment is that it is over far too soon after only three and a half minutes. After this, highlights come thick and fast, with the second track, Rope By Rope,  mixing Jo’ Buddy’s gorgeous New Orleans R&B leanings with the band’s clipped and precise ska beat. Try to imagine James Hunter singing ahead of The Specials and you won’t be too far away.

Perhaps the best song on the album is Right Here In My Arms, which pitches Jo’ Buddy’s unique vocal delivery alongside guest vocalist, Helsinki’s Marjo Leinonen, to stunning effect. Joy Of Life is perhaps the most reggae-heavy track but given that Jo’ Buddy’s approach to everything he touches is uniquely idiosyncratic, this doesn’t seem any more of a stretch or departure from anything he has tried and conquered before.

This album is clearly much more than another Jo’ Buddy album. The musical support offered by Funky Kingtone makes this a full musical partnership and the standard of playing is exemplary throughout. While the featured musicians have toured with Laurel Aitken, Winston Francis and other Jamaican favourites, they are quite comfortable in stretching out beyond the band’s reggae and ska influences, Just check out the closing track,  What Good’s Life Still Giving. where they meet Jo’ Buddy on his own territory with a rousing R&B torch song.

For long-standing fans of Jo’ Buddy who may have concerns of his leaving behind his usual musical co-conspirator, Down Home King III, and heading off into a new musical direction, you can relax. All the elements of his great music are present and correct here, he has simply just added a few more reasons to enjoy him!.

Review Date: January 2016

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