Get Wiser – Soldiers of Jah Army
In a year when another roots reggae pioneer — Joseph Hill, of Culture fame — has passed from us, it seems fitting to notice a band with obvious room for continued growth. With a list of albums already released, while touring regularly through the continental US, Puerto Rico and Hawaii, Soldiers of Jah Army promises that reggaes torch will not fall strictly to the evermore commercial styles barraging across the airwaves.
Since their ages land in the still-youthful mid-20s, it really is a wonder that theyve been able to accomplish all they already have in a genre that isnt always welcomed on the radio. Not only are they dropping albums regularly, they do so through their own label, and are allowed a freedom of movement that a lot of artists never get to see through the operations of larger labels; thats a true blessing. SOJAs sound can evolve as they see fit, without anyone breathing down their collective neck. Only their personal creative drives to push them on.
Get Wiser is SOJAs third full-length release since forming in 97. Its full of vocalist/bassist Bob Jeffersons earthquake sound, a defining ingredient in SOJAs music, the ever-choice guitar licks of lead singer Jacob Hemphill, whose voice is one of the most distinct and appealing in the genre, Patrick OSheas beautiful melodic drive and the two men on the skins, percussionist Ken Brownell and drummer Ryan Berty.
While bringing themselves to greater heights, they dont forget those who paved the way, showcasing the legendary Junior Marvins guitar on By My Side and You Dont Know Me. Reaching across waters to partner with those lacking the audience massive SOJA has earned, Carmelo Romeros (drummer/vocalist for Puerto Ricos Gomba Jahbari) voice is a soothing addition to Cant Tell Me.
The entire album is on point, but Faith Works is exemplary, with Jeffersons vocals much toned down from his usual delivery, Bring Back Truth is a favorite, featuring trumpeter Jahaziel Garcia and saxophonist Misael Clemente, and Sorry has a go-go back beat (Milton Go-go Mickey Freeman on percussion) that is a tell-tale echo of SOJAs birth in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., still true to those roots.
Soldiers of Jah Army isnt the only great young reggae group out there fighting in a business not necessarily jumping to push a conscious-minded roots sound, but with the luxury of their own label, the backing of a growing nationwide fan base and an obvious creative drive, decades of potential are just coming to a boil. Get Wiser is a fine introduction to a battalion of troops moving a positive message; hear them out.