Review: Jo Mersa Marley - Comfortable EP
by Larson Sutton
There will be a moment early on when listening to Jo Mersa’s debut EP Comfortable when expectation turns to appreciation, and the six songs that traverse the boundaries of hip hop, dancehall, and electro-pop will stand on their own, much like the songwriter himself. It will be the temptation of every critic to mention the Marley family line from which Mersa descends, including father Stephen and grandfather Bob, only to, perhaps unfairly, dress the 21-year-old as the next heir to the family’s royal reggae crown. In fact, Mersa’s choices on Comfortable reflect that of an independent spirit, one that has its own ideas, while simultaneously incorporating those of his elders.
From the foreboding vibe of Rock and Swing to the appropriately bright Sunshine, Mersa utilizes the shades of dark and light rhythms to accompany his rhymes. Women play the largest part lyrically in the half-dozen efforts, touching down in the singer’s personal experience most notably on Bogus, featuring the deft production of uncle Damian. The title track lends optimism to the outing, offset nicely by club shakers All To Me and Perfect 10, the latter offering Jemere Morgan’s rude boy accents. Mersa’s collaboration with his father’s keyboardist Llamar ‘Riff Raff’ Brown, and coupled with Stephen Marley’s production, deliver a familiarity to the cause, yet never cloud the creative intent.
As reggae morphs into a variety of subsets and offspring, it becomes a genre less than obvious in those it influences. Jo Mersa is the embodiment of this evolution. An artist that has no doubt been immersed in the songs and culture of the art form, both socially and biologically, he would appear the obvious candidate to assimilate its history into its future. The first listen of Comfortable may not immediately call to mind reggae in its purest form, but it will provide a signpost as to where the music is headed when written and performed by one who drinks from as pure a stream of influence as any.
LISTEN TO SUNSHINE: