Album Review: Micah Shemaiah - Still
by Gardy Stein
"Well, you know Rasta a di fyah starter!"
What do you get if you combine the best of three respected Roots production houses with one of the most conscious voices in contemporary Jamaican Reggae? Nothing less than elevational music of the highest grade that will nurture your ears, heart, mind and soul.
With Still, Zion I Kings and Micah Shemaiah have teamed up to deliver a full studio album that resonates with heavy bass and shiny horns, sweet melodies and intense messages. Eight tracks and four dubs were carefully crafted for the world to hear, and, as we became used to in a Zion High release, the quality is so good you better hear this stuff loud.
In comes Spiritual: "Di Rasta man spiritually based, conquer dem physical ways". This first piece is a perfect harbinger of what we are about to experience, introducing not only Micah's warm, soulful vocals but also the experts involved on instruments. "Jah David" Goldfine on bass, guitar and percussion, Laurent "Tippy I" Alfred on guitar and keys as well as the untimely deceased Andrew "Drew Keys" Stoch on trombone and lead keyboards (drums are played by Carl "Carlalou1drop" Benjamin on this track, on others we hear Lloyd "Junior" Richards, Jonathan "Rankine Jedd" and Aston Barrett Jr.) provide an amazing soundscape, in this case with sparkling highlights by Patrick "Aba Ariginal" Tenyue on trumpet.
Continuing the deep Roots ride, Angels In Zion speaks of the heavenly kingdom, the road to which the Most High is asked to bless. Special mention deserve the background harmonies: next to singer Tuff Like Iron, we hear the voices of the one and only Mighty Diamonds (again heard in Space And Time)! A great way to show respect to the veterans who paved the way for Reggae music - it's small gestures like these which, for me, make a release extraordinary!
House Of Cards reflects on the more terrestrial issue of human (mis-)behaviour, as does the jazzy Wicked Babylon (grand: Andrew "Moon" Bain on lead guitar), condemning the confusion that abounds in these times. Micah expands his range here, letting us in on a very personal, emotive way of singing - almost to the point of breaking, at times.
The same emotion, the same authenticity is palpable in the title track Still. Upon reading the title, I automatically associated it with the adjective (in the sense of calm, not moving), but what is elaborated on here is in fact the adverbial meaning of the word. "Still a pot full a stew, I still Rasta from every yute, still I hold the truth. Still I rock and a groove, to love one another is still the golden rule..." Another gorgeously decelerated piece of music!
A special place in my heart holds the upful Natural Man. Had I not loved the audio upon first hearing, I would have fallen for the accompanying video. In fact, I did fall for that all over again, since the interaction of father and son it depicts is just the sweetest thing. Chapeau to the whole team (including Dalton Browne on harmonies) for this gem!
Roots Rock Sound, a celebration of or rather love livication to this very special type of music, closes the release, conveying a deep desire to assemble around some huuuuge speakers once more to listen to songs like these. We'll get there, don't you worry!
Still is an album of outstanding beauty, and this felicitous collaboration of Micah Shemaiah and Zion I Kings will definitely be counted among the best Roots Reggae releases of 2021. Whoever made the link: thank you. And, since Micah has a big heart for us record enthusiasts, Still is out on Vinyl as well!
Micah Shemaiah - Still
VINYL / DIGITAL RELEASE [Zion High Productions]
Release date: 10/29/2021
02. Angels In Zion
03. Angels In Zion Dub
04. House of Cards
05. Natural Man [WATCH THE VIDEO]
06. Natural Man Dub
08. Space and Time
09. Wicked Babylon
10. Wicked Babylon Dub
11. Roots Rock Sound
12. Roots Rock Sound Dub