Dukes of Roots ADD


Album Review: Dukes Of Roots - Dukes Of Roots


by Gardy Stein

Album Review: Dukes Of Roots - Dukes Of Roots

It is a rare occasion to witness, in full awareness of its potential, the birth of a legendary project. With Dukes Of Roots, a new movement spanning three continents and as many generations of skilled musicians, this may well be the case, so don't miss out!

Grown from an encounter between Congolese singer Mermans Mosengo, American guitarist and producer Rod Walkey and Sean "YoungPow" Diedrick, a Grammy-winning producer and keyboarder from Jamaica, it is a formation intent on preserving that original roots reggae sound. The three initiators were soon joined by Sean's brother Courtney "Bam" Diedrick on drums and the prolific George "Fully" Fullwood on bass, and with the groups' pillars thus firmly in place, they started recording immediately, adding more talents on the way.

Their hard work resulted in a debut album called, simply, Dukes Of Roots, a 9-piece gem that has just been released under the joint roof of Migration Records and Young Pow Productions. Opening track Cross The Rubicon introduces the project's phenomenal instrumental sound and Mermans' distinctive voice, honed and seasoned in several musical formations such as his own band Afro Fiesta or the globally active Playing For Change. Since I never heard the phrase "crossing the rubicon" before, I had to look it up – turns out it means having passed a point of no return and comes from the time when Julius Caesar crossed the river Rubicon in 49 BC.

"When hate is too great a burden to bear, I have decided to stick with love." Quoting Martin Luther King and inviting Stephen Marley to the mic, Stick With Love is the next building block in the Dukes' growing reputation as roots royalty. The way Bam and Fully roll out the drum and bass here is pure heart-warming bliss, and next to Rod, we hear fine guitars by Ranoy Gordon, Adrian Buono and Ricky J. "Sir Wiggz" Walters, sweet finishing touches provided by singers Roslyn Williams and Sherieta Lewis-Rodney. "Never lose hope!"

Probably the most well-known piece on the album is Pressure Drop, not only because it's a livication to the late great Toots (the original was recorded with The Maytals back in 1969!), but also because it was the first single out since July 2022. Tarrus Riley is the perfect addition to the track's infectious energy, as are Lamont "Monty" Savory on guitar and Tony "Ruption" Williams on percussions. Can we please have more artists covering those old hits on their new releases?

The only other cover on the album, I Can See Clearly Now, brings Titi Tsira to our attention, a South African singer also active with Playing For Change, and yes, you hear the master Dean Fraser on sax here as well. Tosh, while featuring Andrew Tosh and using some interpolations and words of his father Peter's song Equal Rights, is mostly an original creation bemoaning the violent and unnecessary death of this talented singer. More history is treated in John Punch, a song about the first documented slave in American history, and US-American country-singer Darius Rucker joins Mermans on the soulful vocals.

On a different emotion, Try Happy is a feel-good affair and keeps the important balance between pensive and joyful lyrics. It features Natiruts from Brazil, and it was there that the track was partially recorded, along with the beautiful visuals. Out on video as well (and equally advisable to watch, directed by the creative Pete Beng) is Feel The Love, in which Kabaka Pyramid joins Mermans to celebrate life and love on the Reggae Beach in Jamaica.

Coming full circle with the final track, another illustrious guest makes his appearance here. None other than the Scientist wriggled his magic fingers to attire Cross The Rubicon in a Dub gown, managing to stress two of the three outstanding features of this album: Mermans Mosengo's unique voice and the incredibly talented instrumentalists that took part in its creation.

Dukes Of Roots, both the release and the movement, manage the difficult challenge of looking two ways (like the old Roman God Janus): their music leans both towards the past, taking inspiration from and honoring the contributions of the genre's veteran artists, and ahead, blazing an innovative, collaborative trail into reggae's future.

Release details

Dukes Of Roots - Dukes Of Roots

Dukes Of Roots - Dukes Of Roots

DIGITAL RELEASE [Migration Records, Young Pow Productions]

Release date: 02/28/2024


1. Cross The Rubicon
2. Stick With Love feat. Stephen Marley
3. Pressure Drop feat. Tarrus Riley
4. Feel The Love (Remix) feat. Kabaka Pyramid
5. Tosh feat. Andrew Tosh
6. Try Happy feat. Natiruts
7. John Punch (remake) feat. Darius Rucker
8. I Can See Clearly Now feat. Titi Tsira
9. Cross The Rubicon (Dub by Scientist)