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Bunny Lee/Black Ark

By Matt Scheiner
Published June 26, 2008

Reggae Nashville: Deep Roots Music 2
Screen Edge/MVD Visual

Originally shot in the early ’80s and narrated by the incomparable Mikey Dread, the Deep Roots Music series caught the spirit of reggae through a hazy lens with informal interviews and rare studio performances. It’s now a live-and-direct historical account that ripples with the campy irreverence of the surf cult classic The Endless Summer. The first segment here (which is actually Part 3 of the series) goes behind the scenes at King Tubby’s studio with stellar sessions voiced by Delroy Wilson, Jackie Edwards and Johnny Clarke, and features Bunny Lee himself in a great interview with his parents, surrounded by his latest crop of musical talent. The Black Ark segment—fi ttingly prefaced with a righteous Nyabinghi gathering up in the hills with Skully and Tommy McCook—looks at the sometimes deranged mind of Lee “Scratch” Perry, who makes it hard to tell if his madman persona is just filler for the camera. His live studio sessions consist of a long-playing ramble over a riddim that doesn’t stop until the reel cuts out—even his wife and children take a crack at the business end of the microphone. Aside from the 3-2-1 Contact-like editing and title sequences, Deep Roots Music plays like a visual encyclopedia that begs for a rewind.