Monday, 24 September 2018

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Agent Sasco’s Hope River brims with positive energy and life lessons

RECORD TIME: The deejay showcases growth and substance on his superb fourth album.

On Agent Sasco’s new disc, Hope River, there is a track called “My Song.” It’s an anthemic mid-tempo tune that lifts the spirit and gives you that ‘I-can-conquer-the-world’ feeling. In short, that’s the overwhelming vibe you get when you press play on the 14-track album. A hypnotic mix of rootsy reggae, rhythmic dancehall and nonstop positive energy, it’s a solid effort from one of the most outstanding voices working in the contemporary dancehall space.

Among today’s top-flight Jamaican entertainers, the Kintyre-bred lyricist makes it clear that he is not one of those deejays chasing the hype, the glitz and the young girls. That’s not where his heart is. Hope River not only showcases a remarkable sense of maturity; it highlights the growth of an artiste who has come a long way since bursting onto the scene with the party hit “Girls Gone Wild.”

Almost two decades later, Hope River (his fourth studio album) is celebrating empowerment, gratitude, positivity and rising above the obstacles in your way. It’s responsible artistry. It’s substance.

He gets introspective and reflective on “Banks of Hope,” reminding us that time is longer than rope; spirituality and old-school mento instrumentation add to the appeal of “Mama Prayed,” a duet with gospel star Glacia Robinson; and he savours life’s endless possibilities on “New Day.”

The number of collaborations feels a little excessive, but who wouldn’t want to have their musical friends join them on this feel-good ride? Wayne Marshall shows up for “Journey”; Stephen Marley hops on for “Grateful”; and Kardinal Offishall supplies some tough rhymes on “Legacy.”

Other highlights: Dre Island’s smooth hook on “So Blessed,” on which Sasco remembers the one-room board house and seizing opportunities; Sevana’s sultry-sweet vocals on “They Will Rob You,” a cautionary tale that’s also about fighting for love; and “Passage of Time,” an excerpt of a 2004 interview with Buju Banton, one of the deejay’s idols. 

In many respects, Buju’s influence on Agent Sasco is undeniable – from the robust tone to the deep introspection and the keen observations that have become hallmarks of his craft. 

Hope River has all these attributes in copious abundance, and easily earns comparisons to records like Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock. So, truth be told, it’s no idle boast when the deejay says he’s winning right now. Tyrone’s Verdict: B+ 

BEST TRACKS: “So Blessed,” “Winning Right Now,” “Mama Prayed” and “My Song”

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