Jah Works’ forthcoming album Believe isn’t just the best reggae album to be released so far in 2016, it is the best album the band has ever released. Those who know Jah Works know them as the best local reggae act from around the way. However, I’ve never thought of them as a local act at all but a world class act who have yet to connect in a major way with reggae fans outside of the DC/Baltimore area.
Lead vocalist Scott Paynter is right back where he should be at the helm of a group who has been fighting gravity and paying dues for two decades now. However, as Marley once sang “the hotter the battle, the sweeter the victory.” Jah Works is a band that is now fully realizing its talents, a group of gifted musicians who no longer have to struggle and search for that intangible thing that makes it all worthwhile.
Believe is an album that is as uplifting as it is sober, as inspirational as it is thoughtful, and as righteous as reggae can be. The album opens with “Water,” one of the album’s brightest spots. It is a righteous rock solid roots and culture tune with a conscious message. Jonathan Pang’s flawless drumming and Michael Hamilton’s thundering bass carry the tune as Kevin Gorman brings some nice guitar elements to the sound. Jah Works brought in a merciless horns section for the album and they hit it hard on the album opener.
As an album, Believe is a well-tracked and brilliantly-produced assortment of bone-breaking riddims, top notch lovers tunes, and classic rub-a-dub roots and culture anthems. This is a band that is fully evolved and deeply engaged in its craft throughout the album. These are world class musicians and masterful players who bring a sound as authentic and unyielding as anything in contemporary reggae.
Guitarist Kevin Gorman shines bright on the album, bringing a rock element to the music that is both organic yet remarkable. Just check his guitar work on tracks like “Water” and “Still Going On” and there is no doubt that his style is greatly influenced by the likes of Al Anderson and Julian “Junior” Marvin, two groundbreaking guitarists who were the first to bring a classic rock element to the reggae sound on albums like Natty Dread, Rastaman Vibration, and Blackheart Man. Gorman just might be the best guitarist in reggae right now. His guitar solos seem effortless as he carves out his own groove in each tune.
Most impressive, however, is Scott Paynter’s lead vocal, which is as distinct as Cas Haley and as soulful as Jimmy Riley. His vocal is as strong and emotive as its ever been. He is a singer and performer who lays it on the line every time, singing each song with such conviction, soul, and inspiration, making each and every tune an emotional experience for the listener. As a songwriter he can bring the pain, teach the lesson, and come with the redemption in the space of one song.
There are no gimmicks on Believe. No obligatory uninspired ganja anthems. No politricking and no pandering. Just life pure and simple. There isn’t a weak spot on the album. However, there are tunes which certainly stand out.
“Still Goin’ On” is without a doubt the best song on the album and Jah Works best song yet. Scotty P’s writing on the song is self-reflective and brutally honest as he revisits love, loss, and the pains of life (“I know some people who still haven’t gotten over their own fears/Around their eyes you see the tears yeah/Some get off track some get off course/They fall they can’t get back, get back up on the horse/They must not be feeling the force, the force of love/I need to feel it now”). This tune, like many on the album, is undeniable. Nuff respect to Roc Sullivan who brings a wicked percussion sound to the track as well.
Dermot Hussey premieres and reviews “Water” and “Still Goin’ On” on his Riffin’ webcast
So for those looking for music with a meaning, look no further than Believe. It is an album that is unwaveringly positive, undeniably enjoyable and so much better than anything else I’m hearing right now. This is music to live your life to. Music in which you can Believe.
Raver rates the album a solid 4.8 out of 5.0
Jah Works is:
Scott Paynter- Lead Vocals,Guitar
Brian Gorman- Keys, Backup Vocals
Roc Sullivan-Saxophone, Backup Vocals, Percussion
Chuck Patterson-lead guitar on So Lovely
Adam Marshall Flicker-Trumpet
Clarence Ward lll-Trumpet
Patrick Forte Harrison-Trombone
Tekeytha Fullwood-Back up vocals on Wasn’t Meant to Be
Jason “Jocko” Randall-Percussion on Water and Believe
All songs written by Jah Works
Recorded at Riddim House Studios
Tracks 1,6, and 8 mixed by Jason “Jocko” Randall at More Sound Studios in Syracuse, NY
Tracks 2 and 11 mixed by Jim Fox at Lion and Fox Studios
Tracks 3, 5, and 7 mixed by Laurent “Tippy” Alfred at I Grade Records in St Croix U.S.V.I.
Tracks 4 and 10 mixed by Nathan Sabanayagam and Will Holland at Chillhouse Studios in Boston MA
Tracks 9, 12 and 13 mixed by Steve Wright at Wrightway Studios in Baltimore, MD
Mastered by Mike Caplan at Lion and Fox
Artwork and Layout by Paul Downie