Anybody who has driven out past Charlottesville on 64 West will get the joke. The new Corey Harris album is called “Zion Crossroads”, the name of a small town outside of Charlottesville where he lives and a perfect name for his first all reggae cd. This is Harris’ eighth album and with each release he expands the genre of music he is known for. He’s explored with authentic intensity delta blues, Northern African rhythms, soul and now an album of original reggae.
Harris combines his political and Rastafarian philosophies for some powerful anthems like “Ark of the Covenant”, “Sweatshop” and “Heathen Rage.” He continues to develop songs about North Africa concerns that have been dominating his last few albums on songs like “Walter Rodney”, a tribute to the Guyanese political activist killed by a bomb while running for office in 1980. This is genuine Jamaican reggae, not the dance hall variation or diluted by electronica production. He addresses contemporary issues in the lyrics, allowing the album to avoid sounding like a history lesson. “Afrique (Chez Moi)” is sung in entirely in French and “Plantation Town” is a ska influenced song about current conditions in Africa.
The last two albums by Harris have been leading up to this project, from the field recordings on “Mississippi to Mali” to the reggae influenced blues on “Daily Bread.” His experimentation on those albums gives “Zion Crossroads” a textbook style presentation of reggae music played so naturally that it sounds like the style of music he has played all his life. Corey Harris will play live at the Out of the Box/Town Point Sundays free concert series on August 26th in Town Point Park in Downtown Norfolk.
Listen for songs from Corey Harris’ album “Zion Crossroads” all this week on Paul Shugrue’s new music show “Out of the Box.” Monday through Thursday from 7 pm to 9pm, Saturday afternoon from 1 pm to 5 pm and on demand at www.whrv.org/outofthebox.