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Junior Culture - Heights of Great Man

Junior Culture - Heights of Great Man

Junior Culture - Heights of Great Man

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A vital and honest singer cuts some hot modern roots reggae.


Junior Culture - Heights of Great ManAs a boy Junior Culture heard reggae music in his grandmother’s house—and the spirit of reggae music that imbued his youth had blossomed in a major way. It is fully on display the fine rocking roots album Heights of Great Man. What shines through the thirteen cuts on this dynamic set of reggae (with touches in a dancehall stylee) is an honest man, a talented singer and chanter, giving a solid performance.

This album should be on ever reggae lover’s playlist--and that can (and should) happen because it is free; it is digitally (and legally) available on Soundcloud. Access it, take a listen, and hear a righteous artist bust some serious reggae chops.

Hailing from Kingston’s Jones Town, the man also known as Jermaine Vassell is a singer with the energy to make his career move forward against the odds facing an independent artist. The recording and mixing of Heights of Great Man was done at Tuff Gong, and people there like Richard Daily know what they are doing; Portugal’s Dan Dada Records mastered Heights of Great Man. Both of those teams have done a great job in supporting Junior Culture. The artist himself is a man with the energy and drive to take his belief in reggae music and make it real. It’s “not an easy road” as Buju would say, but I for one am thankful for Junior Culture’s commitment to the music he loves and grew up with.

While comparisons with Anthony B and Junior Kelly might spring to mind in songs like Trying or Bun Di System, I was struck by Junior Culture’s ability to handle the heavier riddims in Burn the Whisperers and with the energetic Fyah Shane in Black Woman. (I kept hearing some homage to the jungle of Bounty Killer). On this album those two tunes rock on the far side of roots and, along with the more even-keeled Victim of Badmine, show that the Kingston artist can use his clear, powerful baritone to voice some conscious beat and ideas.

Yes he shines on the rougher beats, yet when Junior Culture turns his skills to more moderate reggae such as Parliment or even to the lover’s rock anthem No Holiday (with Nadia) there is no drop off in the power of the music. Over a set of very nice riddims, the Jones Town chanter explore a wide range of styles—but never loses a certain center that keeps the set centered. His lyrics can be quite interesting to say the least, such as when he spins the words:

Some want to see you rise,
Some want to see you fall,
But you must never trust a human being
That’s not my style at all.

Junior CultureMaybe it was my American ears—sometimes Jamaican and my US English sound like different languages—but those lines from Some Want to See You Rise made me sit up and take notice. Those are the sorts of things that give an artist character, even when they shock or make you smile.

This album made me think of honesty in the musical life, and from Heights of Great Man I get a tremendous sense of honesty. It’s not easy for an independent artist to make it, but when Junior Culture sings on Trying:

They’re trying to conquer me
But they just cannot conquer me.

I believe it comes from a hardscrabble Jones Town background and the fierce fight to be recognized as a world-class reggae citizen. With Heights of Great Man, Junior Culture takes a giant step to success and wider recognition.

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