Reggae's Gone Country, the album from VP Records and Warner Nashville Music, has debuted on the Billboard magazine charts.
One week after it was released in the United States, charted at number 65 on the country listing and number two on reggae chart.
The 12-track set features Jamaican acts including Romain Virgo, Busy Signal, Etana, Luciano and Tessanne Chin covering country standards such as Kenny Rogers' The Gambler and Crazy by Patsy Cline. Reggae's Gone Country was co-produced by saxophonist Dean Frazer and neo-country singer John Rich. Some top reggae musicians including legendary drum and bass team Sly and Robbie and bass player Glen Browne played on the album which was conceptualized by Cristy Barber, a senior executive at VP Records and a producer.
Barber has worked with some of the biggest names in dancehall, from Beenie Man to Damian 'Jr Gong' Marley to Busy Signal. She expressed satisfaction with the album's encouraging debut. "It shows a lot of potential and we'd love to see the sales go up. The radio stations are just getting into it and I plan to work this album for the rest of this year," she said.
This is not the first time Barber has worked on a reggae 'combination' album. She was part of the team that pushed Chant Down Babylon, the Stephen Marley-produced set that digitally teamed big-name hip hop acts with reggae legend Bob Marley. Chant Down Babylon sold gold (over 500,000 units) and introduced Marley's music to a new generation of fans. Dej Jamaica a reggae hip hop fused project was also conceptualised and produced by Barber.
The VP Records executive says Reggae's Gone Country is not just about sales. "It's more of an educational process, we're looking at reaching the country music market," Barber explained. She added that the project had a significant impact on one of its participants.
"Larry Gatlin is such a great guy. He was over the moon when he heard that there are people in the Caribbean who love his music," Barber said. Gatlin (leader and founder of the Gatlin Brothers) and Virgo recorded California for Reggae's Gone Country. It is a cover of All The Gold in California, a hit for the Gatlin Brothers in 1979. The single is the only collaborative effort on the album with and accompanying video. California and The Gambler, which is covered by Busy Signal, are the songs currently in rotation. Barber reported that the latter has enjoyed the highest downloads.
Barber first came up with the idea of a reggae tribute album to country music two years ago, partly through her father Raymond, who is a big country music fan. The Barber family are from Michigan but Cristy Barber's maternal roots are in Tennessee, the official home of country music.
With her established ties to the dancehall scene, Barber approached Rich, half of the hugely-popular duo Big and Rich, to reach out to the country market. Part of his unofficial campaign is getting copies of the album to close friends which include country greats like Rogers and the members of Alabama.
Jamaicans have had a long love affair with country music. Rogers, Skeeter Davis, Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins, Mac Davis and Johnny Cash are among the most popular.
Barber believes Reggae's Gone Country has the quality to become a solid catalogue seller, much in the mould of outstanding reggae and country albums. That is just one of the many similarities she sees in music from two entirely different cultures.