Live at Stubb's
(JDub Records / NMC)
Currently in Israel
for four shows in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
, Crown Heights-based reggae crossover superstar Matisyahu is gearing up for the January release of his major label debut studio album. In the meantime, his American Or Music / Epic Records debut Live at Stubb's has recently been released in Israel through a new partnership with local mainstream distributor NMC.
Stubb's showcases the incredible chops and flavor of Matisyahu's
band, and the CD builds in intensity as it goes on.
"Aish" features a slow part that grooves with perfection. "Without a Crown" displays the incredible vocal flow that made Matisyahu famous, while "Beat Box" captures his spittle rhythm skills. On "Exaltation," the band gets flashy and jams out, with a jazzy beat that slowly builds to a frenzy thanks to some impressive guitar work.
Most artists release concert albums as career retrospectives, and the relatively early coming to light of Stubb's proves once again that Matisyahu, whose reputation is largely earned by his live performances, is the real deal.
Sascha Baron "Ali G" Cohen has made a highly successful career for himself as a London-based Jew acting like a reggae/hip-hop fiend in the thick of gangsta culture. Taking her cues from Cohen, but probably even more so from Matisyahu, London's
Sista Warrior has released her debut full-length album, Valiant Woman.
When interviewing a British anti-drug government official, Ali G asks if Rastafarans are exempt from marijuana possession prohibitions. Then he gets personal, asking, "Let's say someone don't look like a rasta but they is got a couple of Bob Marley
records and has one of those hats with the dreads attached or whatever. Do you think that that would get them off in a court?" Valiant Woman picks up where this line of questioning left off, proving once and for all that there is such thing as a bona-fide roots reggae scenester who doesn't look like one.
On the opening "Shalom Aleichem," Sista Warrior, who used to play keyboards in the Tottenham
Reggae Riot Squad band, introduces herself to the audience, explaining, "I don't like reggae, oh no no no / I love it." Her theme song, "Conscious Warrior," explains the mission: Sista Warrior has been "recruited in Kah [God's] army" for the purpose of "fighting negativity / fighting the behema [beast] / fighting the ego / fighting my desire."
The album employs an extremely stripped-down production approach; "Machon" is the only track that uses effects on the vocals, which are traditionally drenched in reverb in roots reggae. Sista's vocals are weak at times, her songs have a tendency to be only partially developed and many of the parts sound canned rather than played by people. But sometimes concept goes a long way, and Valiant certainly serves as an ear-opener.
Ben Jacobson can be reached at email@example.com