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Red Pond by Junior Kelly

Red Pond by Junior Kelly

Red Pond by Junior Kelly

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Junior Kelly delivers and the world feels right with him back.


The middle of the last decade marked a high point for modern roots with quality. Capleton’s 'Reign Of Fire' and Junior Kelly’s 'Tough Life' album exemplified the trend, setting their scorching neo-rasta messages to lavishly arranged rhythms with strong songcraft, lyrics and flow. The future looked bright.

Since then the reggae industry has been rocked by diminishing returns on recorded product. The aftermath of filesharing, the rise of autotune and pop-roots ditties like the Dropleaf and the recent gully vs gaza feud have conspired to make 2010’s reggae scene a very different place.

But following a mini-renaissance of cultural artists last year, Kelly has finally released his follow-up to 2005’s 'Tough Life'. Named 'Red Pond' (after his Spanish Town community) the production comes courtesy of “George Dusty” Miller and the Firehouse Crew - with mixes by Shane Brown and Colin “Bulby” York.

Sizzla's 'Ghetto Youthology', which featured some of the same foundations, was as jagged, lopsided and challenging as every one of his sops to consciousness have been. By contrast Kelly seems far more relaxed on Dusty's thin-sounding, glossy backings: whether tackling timeless sufferers roots themes during Waan Lef’ De Ghetto and Stumbling Blocks; or less traditional approaches - using autotune (on My African Child) and hip-hop beats for the Lukie D combination She’s Gone.

All the hallmarks of classic Kelly are here: pedigree rhythms (How Better Ah Go Home on Java, Treacherous Waters on Armagideon, and Murderer on Dusty’s steel-pan-embellished Heavenless) and Latin-jazz tinged departures (Believe in Yourself). There are poignant ballads (Papa’s Song with US singer Ras Shiloh –doing a mean Sam Cooke impression); lovers duets (The Al.Ta.Fa.An produced/ Miller built hit Too Late with the physically and spiritually comparable Queen Ifrica); and cheerful-sounding chastisements (single Nuthin Wrong With The World and the ska-driven Slackness) - each executed with that breezy self confidence that breeds success after success.

Junior Kelly delivers another rock-solid effort and the world feels right with him back. All we need is Capleton to drop his colossal new album the 'I-Ternal Fire' and the roots resuscitation can continue apace.

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