Winston Rodney, Bob Marley's childhood neighbor, founded the Burning Spear group and eventually adopted the name as his own. On his new album, "Our Music," the 57-year-old Rodney takes a handful of simple exhortations -- phrases such as "Music alone shall live," "Come now, people, let's try again" and "You shouldn't hurt that man" -- and repeats them over a roots-reggae groove until the mottos acquire a hypnotic power.
This approach works only if the obviousness of the platitudes is redeemed by the fervor of the singer and the commitment of the band behind him. The formula hasn't always clicked, but it does on 2003's "Free Man" and on "Our Music." Rodney's baritone fills each line with a woolly warmth, and his band counters those rounded syllables with a sharp-edged syncopation.
Like a preacher or a politician, Rodney urges his listeners to "Try Again," offering the title line first as a helpful suggestion, then as a piece of avuncular advice, then as a stern command. The phrase is repeated again and again, each time with a subtle twist, even as the band sustains the central rhythm lick by adding an embellishment with each repetition. The cumulative effect is far stronger than the printed lyrics could ever suggest.
-- Geoffrey Himes
Appearing Friday at the State Theatre.