Niney the Observer, Sledgehammer Dub (In The Streets of Jamaica)

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Despite the billing above, there are actually four entities responsible for Sledgehammer Dub: singer Dennis Brown, who provided the vocal on the original versions of these songs, Niney, who produced those tracks, Niney's house band Soul Syndicate, who played on them, and King Tubby, who created the dub versions heard here. Never one to be shy about asserting his authority, Tubby scrapes Brown's voice clean off the songs, and spares only the Soul Syndicate's lonely, galumphing bass lines and a few thin wisps of their rhythm tracks. The slender, spooky songs that result are a far cry from their wild sources, a testament to Tubby's skill and clarity of vision.

Slender, spooky songs perfect for all duppy conquerors

Like most of Tubby's work, the dubs here are deep and spacious. A master at defining form without fleshing it out entirely, Tubby elevates the melody on "Burning Dub" just long enough to grant a peek at the curling guitar lines and organ trills, then whisks them away before their presence becomes too concrete. Ditto "Everyone's Dubbing," which opens with a euphoric full-band fanfare before a clatter of reverbed percussion obliterates everything but the bass. Despite the fact that its songs are built from so little, Sledgehammer Dub never becomes plodding or monotonous. Instead, it manages a kind of otherworldly beauty — tranquil and moody and mysterious.