Righteous Sound 2017
Reggae from Oregon glorifies the genre’s roots to gild ’em and blind the Babylon system.
If your ears ain’t too well-attuned to the sound of Jah-blessed tunes, you’ll be hard-pressed to tell that the Burton brothers, Evton and Skip, don’t hail from Jamaica. The joyous noise these artists make is a spit in the face of fate: on arrival, each of the two received the prophecy of a short lifespan, yet here they are, years later, spreading the gospel of the “living with no doubt” principle on their fourth album now.
Quite understandably, there’s a spiritual thread running from a cappella harmonies and mantric “Om” of “He Who Has Ears” to “Sky High” with its outlandish, futuristic effects. More so, bass throb and synthesizer buzz give the riddim a cosmic consciousness – not for nothing “Rocketship” turns out soft ‘n’ soulful before the singers’ lips speed it up in the end – while vocals deliver, over the earth-shaking groove, infectious stanzas which border on humorous in “If You Follow” where piano chords sprinkle the proceedings with a barroom lightness. As a result, “We Got Vibes” isn’t a simple playful boasting to spice the toasting but a fact, and when Sizzla’s rhymes get woven into “Golden Ones” to add organic chant to the electronic-stricken rocksteady, the mood and music become even more memorable.
Still, it’s once the Burtons and Vaughn Benjamin’s voices slightly recede that the riffs of “Don’t Lose Sleep” spike the melody with adrenaline and propel the piece towards dub-dipped meditation. Yet if the mellifluous skank of “Perfect” and “Wednesday” reveals a lyrical, although not overtly romantic, slant to the ensemble’s earthly mysticism, “Root Down” has fusion in its fiber, and the social-minded anger behind “School Again” is sugarcoated in modern take on dancehall. Both traditional and contemporary, “From Zero” may indeed be a starting point for reggae exploration – ain’t no doubt about it.