Review: Jah Sun – Between the Lines

I’ve played Jah Sun on the Reggae Roots & Bass show a few times but this collection of music I wouldn’t know if it was Reggae. There’s a lot of pop and although there’s some clear African influences its difficult to say it’s a stand out Reggae album. You could be controversial and say that guitar strumming at a Reggae tempo and mentioning Rasta a few times doesn’t make it a Reggae track but there are some good tracks that do stand out on this album, particularly ‘Guess Who’  ‘Ghetto Ballad’ and ‘Running’. It’s a good easy relaxing listen and its very middle of the road where religion and politics are concerned. 

By Liam Monaghan

Only Human
Not a cover of Rag n Bone Man’s smash hit but Jah Sun starts off this album with some uplifting guitar work and some harmony’s that cushion Suns voice throughout the track. There’s some nice trumpet work on this track, which bring an authentic vibe, but the song is very contemporary. There’s something about this track that makes me think of African music, it’s the drumming patterns and the use of the style of drums use that create that sound. Overall a easy listening track where Sun pleads he’s just a human and imperfected soul inside the shell of a man and to be patience with him.

You’re Gonna Fall
The message is simple with the track, you’re gonna fall, you us don’t know it yet but your gonna fall… where? Down the stairs? No… you guessed it… in love with me. The riddim is quite relaxed and isn’t complicated but there’s some Gerry Rafferty style saxophone just whaling away across the track. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing but this song didn’t just jump out at me lyrically, spiritually or physically. Not a bad song just an easy listen.

1997
I am not sure this constitutes as Reggae really, the majority of these tracks are crisply produced and sound very clean. This track really reminds me of something you’d hear at Cali roots where you have that pop/punk sounding Reggae with Pepper, Sublime, Hirie. The lyrics are nice; it’s a message to Suns younger self to say he’s glad the way he’s turned out and well done for not listening to the haters. The riddims plucky and simple with a nice guitar solo.

Guess Who
The first track I’d deem as a Reggae track and all I can think is id love to hear Alborosie on this track. I really like this song, the horns with an echo really create this serious air around the track, which works with the weight of the wandering bass, and makes you want to nod your head or start foot tapping. Lots of mentions of Rasta and dreads in this track so we’re on a religious level but I really enjoy this track.

Tables Turn
We move back to what we was hearing before ‘Guess Who’ and return to this pop style track with African influence. The riddim is very chilled and the lyrics are nice, there’s not really much to say about the track apart from… nice.  We get the hallmarks of a Jah Sun track with harmonies, guitar plucking with some horns and an enchanting story. Definitely a lyrical listen and not a song there to get a forward and will suit a summers day at a festival.

Between The Lines
Some violins and string bring us into this track with a Spanish like classical guitar just gently stepping up in the distance and Jah Sun kicks us off. The hook on the chorus is nice and string throughout give us a nice change from what we’ve heard so far on this album. There’s a nice segment in the second verse about ending back up at the finish line which makes you smile and hits home the message of the track.

Ghetto Ballad
Imagine yourself in some basements café or bar in the city with some minimal candle lighting and some incense burning away with Jah Sun sat on a stool with a band mate next strumming away. This acoustic piece is nice! It sounds like Sun has come closer to the microphone and it sounds more real compared to the previous tracks. I didn’t expect much from Ghetto Ballad by the title but the message and the story in this track is brilliant and raw.

A Day After I’m Gone
Gerry Rafferty is back with his sax and some upbeat big drums to build us up before we plunge into a Reggae beat with a nice walking bassline and some echoing guitar strums that travel throughout the track. Sun chants ‘will you remember me’ throughout the track and we can gather that the track is based on some sort of break up and Sun is questioning was there enough in the relationship/friendship for the persona to remember him. Quite straight forward to be honest but an easy listen.

New Hope
More uplifting words from Sun here, “backs up against the wall” “7 times I rise 7 times I fall, I remember the big picture”. Out of all the tracks I’ve heard id probably say this track for me is the song that I feel is most personal to Sun. There’s some good lyrics in this track such as falling asleep at night but not remembering dream. The riddim is very basic and is the bed for Sun to tell his story.

Fools Gold
Not a cover of The Stone Roses but a nice easy listen to bring us towards the end of the album. Fools Gold is stripped back with the focus being on the bass guitar, which carries us through the track in the bridges. There’s not too much to say about this track. Sun discusses love and making a fool of a heart, I don’t really get it myself and lyrically there’s not enough there for me to get excited about.

Running
I enjoyed this track! Its upbeat and although its quite a serious record the actual music is done very well with lots of horns and there is some nifty drumming and harmonies. Sun discusses freedom and being free tomorrow. This is what id call the festival track, as you can imagine the live element of this track will be huge with a big band.

Love Currency
To bring us to the end of this collection of music we finish as we started with a chilled relaxing riddim and Sun painting pictures with words and telling us stories. You have this Kygo like segment that pops up occasionally with this nice light flute fluttering throughout making the track nice and fresh. The premise of the song is nice and vibrant and that sums up this album.

Label: Sugar Cane
Release date: Friday April 28, 2017

Tracklist
Only Human [Sugar Cane Version]
You’re Gonna Fall
Guess Who
Tables Turn
Between the Lines
Ghetto Ballad
A Day After I’m Gone
New Hope
Fools Gold
Running
Love Currency


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