While most of his peers have either passed away or simply resigned themselves to playing nostalgia-packed live shows, at 58, Burning Spear seems to be emerging as the most resilient, relevant and dese

While most of his peers have either passed away or simply resigned themselves to playing nostalgia-packed live shows, at 58, Burning Spear seems to be emerging as the most resilient, relevant and deserving torchbearer of roots reggae. "Freeman" explains why. A thoroughly satisfying roots set, it finds Spear (born Winston Rodney) typically spirited and inspired on such tracks as the horn-laden title cut, the swaying, metal-guitar-laden "Rock and Roll" and the breezy "Loved for Who I Am." A slew of its lyrics make veiled references to his many battles with various record labels over royalties and master ownership, among other things. Even the title of the disc is such a reference: "Freeman" is his first studio set issued on his own label, Burning Music Productions. While Spear's career has always been overshadowed by the likes of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, with strong albums like "Freeman," he continues to do something they never got a chance to do: grow old gracefully while bolstering his legend at the same time.—WO

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