Poor Man Style
It’s difficult to overstate the transformative effect that Barrington Levy’s earliest recordings had on the sound of Jamaican music. In late 1979, Levy’s spare, hauntingly arranged early singles such as “Shine Eye Gal,” “Collie Weed,” and “Shaolin Temple” completely overtook Jamaican dancehalls and streetside sound clashes. Levy’s keening, ad-lib-laced delivery quickly became the island's most widely imitated vocal style, while the fiercely economical mixes crafted by Henry “Junjo” Lawes and Scientist swept aside the lusher, more heavily layered production style that had been the dominant sound of the roots era. By the time Levy released Poor Man Style in 1982, he was arguably Jamaica’s preeminent vocalist. Poor Man Style features a set of punishing rhythms from the crack studio outfit The Roots Radics, with production work from singer–turned–label owner Linval Thompson and former King Tubby protégé Scientist. The title track—a crisply observed sufferers’ tale full of tragic notes and indelible details from everyday life—hits particularly hard.