Westbound Train - Transitions (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Westbound Train

Transitions (2006)


Reggae got soul. Ska also got soul. So does dub and rocksteady. If you haven't got the hint yet, Westbound Train got soul. With their Hellcat Records debut, Westbound Train joins the ranks of such formidable acts as the Slackers, Hepcat, and the Aggrolites and demonstrates that their smooth, laid back trad-ska style fits right in with the rest of the Hellcat ska posse.

Taking their name from legendary reggae artist Dennis Brown, Westbound Train are unquestionably qualified to carry on the title in the name of reggae and ska music. In an approach that can only be described as some of the smoothest, most soulful ska around, Transitions is over an hour of fantastic musicianship coupled with velvety vocals and relaxing lyrics.

"Please Forgive Me," the first song after the introduction, sets the pace for the rest of the album with an upbeat, ridiculously catchy melody and intricate composition of horns, keys, and jazzy guitar playing. The first forty seconds of "I'm Sorry Mama" led me to believe I was about to hear a traditional ska rendition of Eminem's "Cleaning Out My Closet" with the opening line, "I'm sorry mama, I didn't mean to make you cry..." Fortunately I was mistaken, though it probably would have made for an interesting cover. "Gone" offers up vocals sweet enough to make a grown man melt, backed up by a bouncy rocksteady rhythm and romantic crooning that make for the strongest track of the album (and also one of the shortest at 3:46).

Admittedly, some of the songs remind me of something I could see my mom listening to, such as the jazzy "I Feel Fine," but that doesn't bother me in the least. Transitions is an incredibly solid first offering for Hellcat, and sets the bar high for what's to come from the Boston septet.