BUILT TO LAST: The crooner's disc features guest spots from I-Octane, Mutabaruka and Tarrus Riley.
Duane Stephenson's latest album, Dangerously Roots, is the kind of stellar record that offers the perfect soundtrack for a Sunday afternoon road-trip to the country. Equal parts soulful and reflective, serious and lighthearted, it's a near-seamless blend of rootsy reggae, radio-ready lover's rock and mood-enhancing contemporary sounds. The Reggae Album Grammy voters seriously overlooked this one.
A dynamic vocalist and gifted songwriter who knows how to treat his audience to a melodically swell listening experience, Stephenson fills his album with pure golden notes and a glorious lyricism that transports you across the diverse landscapes of relationships, pressing national matters like crime and even spirituality.
From the pace-setting opening number "Jah Reign" to the more powerful cuts like "Ghetto Religion" (with Tarrus Riley) and "Nah Play" (a window into inner-city hardships), the crooner reveals an artistry that cements his place in the pantheon of new-generation reggae ambassadors who have something meaningful to say. Stephenson chooses to enlighten, educate and thrill us — all at the same time — and as music lovers and culture buffs we are all the better for it.
Whether he's deglamourizing the scourge of crime on tracks like "Run For Your Life" or trying to mend a broken heart on the I-Octane-assisted lament "Juline," Stephenson's work is consistently appealing. Even a guest like Mutabaruka gets in exactly where he fits in, dropping some truth and wisdom on one of the interludes.
It was Buju who coined the phrase Rasta Got Soul, and this amazingly talented young nephew is eloquently carrying on the legacy, tackling matters of the heart on songs such as the seductive one-drop teaser "Good Good Love", the Spanish-tinged "Dance For Me" and the hypnotic gem "Come Right In"; identity and consciousness on "Cool Runnings" and "Rasta For I" — all the while encouraging us to rise to higher moral ground. TALLAWAH's Verdict: A-
> BEST TRACKS: "Cool Runnings", "Rasta For I", "Dance For Me", "Ghetto Religion" and "Jah Reign"