Canadian Rap, a Suspicious Package and Jimi Hendrix's Early Years

The Root listens to Canadian rapper Shad and Earl Greyhound, and reviews the biography of a legend.

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Suspicious Package (Hawk Race Records)

At first you're not sure you're actually listening to an Earl Greyhound album.

When "Eyes of Cassandra (Part 1)" begins quietly, building like daybreak peeling back the night, it's so unlike the muscular, guitar-driven sound that characterized much of their previous album, Soft Targets. And before the song transitions into Part 2, there's a segue that reminds me of a Brazilian shuffle, all drums and moans.

None of this is a bad thing. Suspicious Package presents a band that's growing musically. They've got the three-piece rock thing down, and they now feel comfortable enough to stretch out a bit, and that makes for an album that provides different sonic flavors. For example, one thing you'll notice is the prominence of bassist Kamara Thomas on vocals. On Soft Targets, Matt Whyte shouldered much of the vocal duties. Here it feels more shared. Kamara has become a more confident singer, and it shows both when she's providing harmonies as well as singing lead.

"Ghost and the Witness" and "Shotgun" are killers. In fact, if you listen to the three bangers that begin with "Oye Vaya" and end with "Shotgun," don't be surprised if you need to go out for a cigarette.

Nice, too, to hear Whyte take on more ballads. "Bill Evans" has a wistful vibe similar to the piano coda of "Layla," from the movie Goodfellas. And "Out of Air" is absolutely beautiful, haunting even. He sings, "Flood won't let it fall/Sea's too deep for wrecking ball/I'm almost out of air/Can I start again?"

"Misty Morning" is a great closer. It pulls you out of the introspection and melancholy that the two preceding songs, beautiful though they are, put you in. A triumphant head nod washes all the blues away.

Props to Earl Greyhound who, with Suspicious Package, have given listeners every reason to trust them.

Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber

Becoming Jimi Hendrix: From Southern Crossroads to Psychedelic London, the Untold Story of a Musical Genius (Da Capo Press)