Official iTunes Review for Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad's Album Country

Album Review

First things first: if the name of this band leads you to expect a sort of Chinese reggae sound with radical-socialist lyrics, abandon that idea. If the album title leads you to expect country music, then you’re actually more on track — though even here, the reality is a bit more complicated. Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad use an instrumental lineup (guitar, fiddle, harmonica, banjo, bass, slide, drums) that makes them look, on paper, like something close to a bluegrass band. But the music they make is more like a roots rock fusion of country, Southern rock, and alt-Americana with the occasional sly insertion of psychedelia and, yes, reggae thrown in for fun. Some of the references are oblique: the vocals often evoke Jerry Garcia’s strained tenor gruffness (especially on “Far Away” and on their live cover version of the Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie”), and while “In These Times” uses the most explicitly reggae-based rhythmic pattern, “Healing” draws pretty explicitly on the lyrical themes of classic roots reggae. Overall, though, the mood here is a weird sort of stoner-country fusion: lots of long, discursive intros that feature resophonic slide guitar and harmonica, lots of high-lonesome harmony vocals, several deceptively laid-back calls to popular action (“Country,” “Kids in the Square”). Aaron Lipp’s slide playing is a highlight throughout.