One of the joys of being a music critic is that every day, you get albums from all over the world. Every week, new music shows up in my mailbox from around the globe, and most of it is stuff I think audiophiles around these parts need to hear. The only thing that's hard about it is trying to cover it all in a timely fashion. So every couple of weeks, expect a rundown in this column of the hottest discs from around the world that deserve to be bought, downloaded, or at least MySpaced for awhile to keep from becoming culturally uninformed.
Survival of the Fattest (raSa)
Reggae albums aren't always easy to predict. When Survival of the Fattest first showed up in the mail a month ago, I was initially miffed that I couldn't remember who the hell Prince Fatty was — as if he were some obscure reggae legend I must have forgotten about, like Prince Far I or Prince Jammy. Turns out I was only halfway wrong. This stellar studio project is actually a collection of middleweight reggae champions based in the United Kingdom like Dennis Alcapone, Winston Francis, and Little Roy. In addition, they've got Hollie Cook (daughter of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook and current lead singer of the Slits) as a vocalist, and the result is pure lo-fi reggae madness. It's the most dubwise release since Dub Side of the Moon, and it's just as influential. Key tracks include "Milk and Honey" and "Don't Give Up." There's also a badass cover of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" here that won't be nearly as popular as the original, but it is twice as nice. Visit www.myspace.com/princefatty.
Calypso Gold (World Music Network)
It would be easy to assume that the only homegrown music export ever to come from Trinidad and Tobago is soca. It's easily the most popular music on the twin-island nation, and it has been for years. But when you break down what the second syllable in soca stands for (soul+calypso = soca), you get the real jewel of Trinidad. On this well-researched disc, listeners are hit with the best of calypso music dating wayyy back to the 1920s and '30s. Considering that some of these original recordings are close to 90 years old, the archival process behind this disc should be applauded on its own. From there, the music jumps forward to the apex of the calypso craze in the late '40s and '50s, as stars like Lord Kitchener and the Mighty Bomber carried the music throughout the Caribbean. The selection of songs here is hard-hitting and thorough. Choice cuts include Calypso Rose's incomparable "Rum and Coca Cola" and King Radio's "Man Smart, Woman Smarter." Visit www.worldmusic.net/calypsogold.
Goliath Falling (Mojo Music)
Hailing from the cultural melting pot of Toronto, Canada, singer/songwriter John McKinstry composed most of the songs on Goliath Falling while on a two-year walkabout through Zimbabwe, Belfast, Northern England, and the Florida Panhandle. That's a lot of ground to cover, but apparently this former bassist for Canadian ska group the Skanksters and Boogiewall Soundsystem had a lot of soul-searching to do. Now that's he's back in the T-Dot (that's Toronto, folks), he's recently released his first solo LP, which is a solid journey into the fusion of two-tone ska with global rock 'n' roll. Due to his ancestry, there is a decided Irish sound here, and many of the songs have a Yeats-style poetry feel to them. But even as you start to notice that these compositions are slightly drenched in Guinness, ska horns blare at you, a clave beat sneaks in, and it's undeniable that, despite all of the traveling, McKinstry couldn't have completed this album anywhere else except Toronto. Visit www.myspace.com/johnmckinstry.