Thanks to the success of Shaggy and Sean Paul, an entire generation of Americans has come to define reggae as ass-shaking music with lyrics too rapidly sung to comprehend, laid over looped hip-hop beats. The musically challenged minds of America's youth, warped by countless hours of MTV viewing, may have trouble realizing that the poetic ballads and melodious vocals coming from living legend Beres Hammond do indeed hail from the same musical tradition as Hammond's booty- and bass-heavy counterparts.
While reggae's contemporary stars uphold an image of platinum- and diamond-clad accessories along with a head of neatly braided cornrows, the 49-year-old Hammond maintains an image of his own, consistently rocking a simple cap, glasses, and a beard that borders on ZZ Top's territory. The singer/songwriter may have lost his razor and shaving cream, but he has found a home at the top of Jamaica's charts for nearly 30 years. His reign began in 1975, when the native of Annotto Bay, Jamaica, burst on the reggae scene with "One Step Ahead," a number-one single in the Caribbean nation for 14 consecutive weeks. Three decades, 15 albums, and numerous number-one hits later, Hammond remains his native land's most beloved artist.
Yes, love is a major theme in his work, and he's helped people make love throughout his career. Jamaica's answer to Barry White, he is the region's leading producer of music to get busy to. Reminiscent of American R&B vocalists Otis Redding and Teddy Pendergrass, Hammond has been able to seduce the hearts of three generations of Jamaican females. According to his website, the late, great Bob Marley once called him "the man with the golden voice."
Hammond brings his "golden voice" to Florida Atlantic University's gymnasium (777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton) at 8 p.m. today. He is joined by fellow reggae stars Marcia Griffiths, Maxi Priest, Frankie Paul, and Carlton Coffie. Tickets start at $35 and are available at the FAU box office. Call 561-297-3737. --Tim Hammill
TAYLOR'S TROUBLING TALES
Eighteen years is a long break in anyone's career, especially when you're an impassioned blues musician like Otis Taylor. It'd be one thing if he were some pop star singing about the usual trite stuff, like teen romance and cheap sex. But Taylor -- who initially retired from music in 1977 and returned in 1995 at the urging of bandmate Kenny Passarelli -- tackles darker, more serious subject matter. His 2001 album, White African, is as deep a shade of blue as it gets, with topics ranging from racial lynchings (Taylor's great-grandfather was lynched) to a child dying because his uninsured father can't afford the medical bills. Taylor's most recent album, 2004's Double V, continues to shed light on societal woes, such as impoverished seniors ("Plastic Spoon") or drug dealing ("Mama's Selling Heroin"). Not quite the garden-variety "my baby left me" style of blues, is it? Some musicians just have to tell it like it is, and it isn't always pretty. Taylor performs at 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Bamboo Room (25 S. "J" St., Lake Worth). The cost is $22 plus tax. Call 561-585-2583. --Jason Budjinski
On the Ball
Not your routine comic
If there's one thing the world doesn't need, it's another standup comic telling jokes about bad airplane food or getting pulled over by the cops. Comedian Allyn Ball is anything but that. Eschewing generic anecdotes and lowest-common-denominator dick and fart jokes, the 46-year-old family man and former indie-radio DJ has no problem finding more interesting material for his act. Though, as the title of his latest DVD suggests, Those Who Pay Attention Are Rewarded, not everyone has the background knowledge to get Ball's jokes about dark rocker Glenn Danzig or the Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Weiland and the unintentional hilarity of his post-drug-addicted performances. But anyone can find humor in accounts of Ball's unconventional family life, such as his militant, 4-foot-11 wife angrily defending their lesbian daughter against a homophobic neighbor. Hey, you gotta love a guy whose PayPal seller name is Misanthrope Inc. Ball performs today through Sunday at Uncle Funny's Comedy Club (9160 State Rd. 84, Davie). Tickets cost $8 to $15. Call 954-474-5653. --Jason Budjinski
Keep On the Grass!
Anyone who's remotely aware of the local jam-band scene has heard the name Crazy Fingers. Long one of South Florida's primary Grateful Dead tribute bands, the digits have another band to further pay homage to Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter -- The Grass Is Dead. The bluegrass-lovin' four-piece has been keeping busy with regular gigs at the Bamboo Room in Lake Worth, as well as spending plenty of time in the studio, with two releases -- The Grass Is Dead and Built to Grass -- under its belt. These guys aren't simply amateurs mindlessly wanking away on a few blues scales and doing second-rate Grateful Dead covers; all four members are lifelong musicians, and the band's recent performance at SunFest proves its audience is more than just wharf rats. The jam starts at 9 p.m. at Alligator Alley (1321 E. Commercial Blvd., Oakland Park). Tickets cost $5. Call 954-771-2220. -- Jason Budjinski