Righteous Sound 2019
Conquering Babylon, Oregon trio take a field trip into soul-shaking frequencies and stake their claim on reggae legacy.
The title of this little ensemble’s fifth album may suggest a certain sort of holy smoke, but it’s the faith connotation of “Beleaf” that should draw focus to the band’s blend of contemporary beats and classic ska riddims. Whereas 2017’s "From Zero" stressed their appetite for a full-on existence and defiance, that record’s follow-up finds the Burton brothers and Vaughn Benjamin in concept mode, charting the collective’s route through challenges of time. If fifty-odd minutes feel too long for the genre-limited variety of grooves, there’s a life-affirming, yet socially conscious, message to keep the listener riveted.
Announcing their arrival on “Here We Come” in the beginning, reminding of their progress in “Here We Go” in the middle of the album, and declaring their entrance in the finale of “Here We Are” – the sparsely solemn tripartite piece binding it all together despite different arrangements – the group shift the songs’ orchestral potential across light and shade, where the country-scat-tinctured “Do The Best You Can” rubs its spiritual shoulders with dub-daubed “Fabric Of Creation” and “Years” whose gypsy-esque cosmic bliss is simply irresistible. So though the acoustic “Good Ol’ Days” or “One By One” which has INDUBIOUS joining forces with THE ELOVATERS seem to be rather regular reggae fare, “Arrow” drives its sting very deep before the resonant “Om!” and acoustic guitar of “Frequent See” reveal the record’s finest details, while the piano and Latin tinge of “Blessings Run” lift the rapture to the skies.
High on flawed glory, “Beleaf” is a genuinely moving skank along the lines of reality.