So much music and art has been created by people facing some sort of adversity, and Sierra Leone's Refugee All-Stars have faced far more than their fair share. Driven out of their country by a brutal civil war, the members of this band found each other among the refugee camps in neighboring Guinea. At first they played together simply because they could, but the musical collaboration has happily outlasted the civil war and the return of the musicians to their homes.
Living Like A Refugee was recorded mostly in studios back in Sierra Leone, but a few of the tracks come from the camps themselves. Despite their roughness, these recordings have a great feel to them, and songs like "Bull to the Weak" and "Kele Mani" are the highlights of the disc. If anything, the lack of production on these recordings brings the group's strong musicianship, particularly from lead guitarists Ashade Pearce and Geassay Jahson Dowu Bull, into focus. While some of the musical arrangements are West African style, most of Living Like A Refugee is pure reggae. In particular, the Refugee All-Stars have opted for an old school, guitar heavy approach, evoking Bob Marley and The Wailers from the Catch A Fire era.
While Living Like A Refugee suffers from a shortage of exceptional tracks, the album does maintain a cool vibe throughout. Fans of the earlier Marley recordings will find plenty to like here. Sure, Sierra Leone's Refugee All-Stars have no difficulty getting people's sympathy on account of what they've been through, but this album holds up pretty well to close scrutiny.
Overall grade: B+
reviewed by Scott