Various Artists, Calypso Jamaica

Chris Nickson

By Chris Nickson

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
A forgotten rural Jamaican folk style, collected.

Although it's often called Jamaican calypso, and it's certainly very similar to its Trinidadian counterpart, this is actually mento, a rural Jamaican folk style that enjoyed local popularity in the 1950s. A trio of guitar, banjo and marimba (very African in that the last two instruments originated in Africa) led by Lord Myrie tackles a mix of material, from the topical (“Kinsey Report”) to standards like “MaryAnne” and a very rootsy take on the American jump blues “Don't Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes at Me” that features a stunning banjo solo (the marimba comes into its own on “Big Bamboo”). Of course, there's plenty of sly humor — just listen to “Woman Smarter than Man” — and a relaxed nature to the recordings. Because it sounded so much like its Trinidadian cousin, mento never really found an audience outside Jamaica, and even there it faded fairly quickly, replaced by more sophisticated music, making this a valuable slice of history.