We jump and shout higher.
Better days are coming, this I know...
:: Better Days ::
Come out of your slumber.
Take charge of your thunder...
:: John Jones ::
Everyone's got a heart.
And every heart's got a right to beat...
:: Feeling Blue ::
Mi Deh Yah Released 2010
The man stooping over a lit match on the cover of Mi Deh Yah has been creating and performing reggae music for over 40 years. Clinton Fearon's newest release brings together the essence of a credentialed career with some hard-won wisdom. Mi Deh Yah is a Jamaican expression meaning, "I am here." In terms of musical authority and personal presence, Clinton Fearon is most definitely here.
His lyrics are an entreaty. He wants you to feel the heartbreak of humanity, as in "What a World," along with our power to transform it ("Better Days" and "Are You Ready.") He wants to convey that it's possible to be aware and happy. Indeed, pain and joy intertwine in most of his songs, leading to the choice implied in "The Best": "A pound of feathers weighs the same as a pound of lead." The music stands strong on its own. Fearon himself plays bass on all the tracks: need I say more? His distinctive bass and percussion style remains rootsy and playful, yet clearly in charge. Also evident is his hand in the engineering, learned from working with masters such as Lee "Scratch" Perry. He makes way for the musicians of his Boogie Brown band to showcase their talents on horns, flute, sax, and even strings. This variance brings us an unexpected a whiff of different traditions the bluesy saxophone solo in "Working For the Man," the Mariachi feel to the ska instrumental, "Focus," the middle eastern embellishments to "Feeling Blue." In "De Casa," Fearon tips a hat to the South American countries he's fallen in love with on tour. In "Jamaica" he brings it all home with harmonies that hail from the sweetest days of reggae's trio singers. Having made a name for himself in the 70's and 80's, Clinton Fearon walked away from it all in 1987. He literally stepped into the musical abyss by starting over again, on his own, in Seattle, a city with a small reggae audience at the time, when the popularity of roots reggae had faltered.
Now his flame is spreading again; Mi Deh Yah was released in France this June, and will be released in the rest of Europe in September, after its U.S. debut. This deeply personal work transcends the "Mi" and takes us to the greater "I." It offers a hand-up from the bleakness that seems at times to surround us. Indeed, the man stooping over a lit match on the cover of Mi Deh Yah looks as if he's about to extend his flame to you. You have only to reach out and accept it.
Mi Deh Yah Reviews
Angus Taylor, UnitedReggae.com
The toil and reward of a simple honest life. In 1987 Gladiators bassist and backing vocalist Clinton Fearon quit the group during their US tour to set up camp in Seattle. His early albums with locally sourced Boogie Brown band showed promise but suggested a sound in the process of being forged. It wasn't until 2004's masterwork 'Give and Take' that his bucolic yet contemporary roots template hit its stride. Four longplayers later he's still doggedly on the same path, with no discernable drop in quality to be heard.
A key ingredient is the occasional use of strings, a controversial choice for reggae historians, due to their overdubbing onto seventies UK Trojan releases of Jamaican product to make it more saleable. Yet they are also a sometime feature of Jamaican music past (I Roy's Blackman Time on Glen Brown's Slaving rhythm) and present (Beres Hammond's Still Will Be Heaven, Luciano's collaboration with US cellist Dave Eggar). As part of Fearon and the band's organic pastoral arrangements they work perfectly, evoking the toil and reward of a simple honest life. Another facet is the high level of song writing ability that marked out Gladiators.
The lyrics focus on individual autonomy and shared human condition. Opener Life Is A Journey comes to terms with Clinton's separation from his mother and past self criticism and doubt. The Best tells us "everyone has their own capacity" whereas Feeling Blue instructs to "find your harmony". As with previous albums some of the rhythms make playful knowing references to Bob Marley before changing a few crucial chords. Just as Feelin' The Same from 2007's 'Vision' recalled Jammin', here Rock And A Hard Place channels the spirit of the 'Rastaman Vibration' LP, telling of "coming from the country" to a world of urban iniquities to the gibber of a Cuica drum.
Clinton supplies both his sonorous, yearning lead vocal and the still crystalline harmonies of his Gladiators days. He has also reclaimed bass duties and his steady hand is particularly felt on the slower, early-dancehall oriented rhythms (and, conversely, ska instrumental departure Focus). Meanwhile, his scrupulous work behind the desk, especially on the processing and effects on the drum sounds, yields his strongest ever results.
If you like your roots reggae hard, heavy and sound system driven then this mature, accessible variant may not appeal. Yet Clinton's approach demonstrates how purveyors of the original roots music can continue to make records that reflect both their age and heritage while sounding clearly "of today".
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