Ben Hunter is reincarnated with a new band and this new release. The only local reggae artist with discs in the stores at the moment, Ben’s second album displays his roots-conscious talent and a strong band behind him. The style of singing and playing differs from his first release, A Freedom Song. He has included a revamped version of the first record’s “What Bob Say” on his seven song second effort.
Reality Check begins with the title song, which has outstanding lead vocals by drummer Greg Casmier, accompanied by Hunter chanting for righteous reality. On “Woke from the Grave,” Ben’s vocals come to the forefront as he claims “I’m for real, mon.” Ben’s vocal styles are diverse and distinctly unique throughout the recording. His vocal originality is best shown on the song “Inna City.” The original cuts, such as “Inna City” and “Barefeet,” have a signature, upbeat, quality roots sound. The disc, however, could use more songs like these.
The last two cuts are covers: “Expo ’67″, a Melodians tune, and a reggae version of Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” (an idea originated by Black Uhuru). “Expo ’67″ displays the talents of drummer Casmier on lead vocals once more.
Ben Hunter and Crucial Roots have been regularly performing their well-rounded sound in town at Cafe Brasil. Live, they execute other classic reggae covers, as well as performing originals. The sound on the disc is very close to what they are able to do live, and better production of Ben’s second effort helps to bring this sound home. While even slicker production and big-label polish may still be a few years in the future for Hunter and band, for the moment they showcase the originality of New Orleans-based reggae while staying faithful to a true roots sound.