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Gary Dread and the JAHmen | Food For Ya Brain

album review by John Powell

Gary Dread and the JAHmen | Food For Ya Brain

You have to respect Gary Dread for his absolute dedication to the roots of reggae. Sure, he tries on herb-praises, dancehall, and lovers rock, all of which aren’t the roots of reggae, but he utilizes classic techniques that create an entertaining, if not sometimes uninspired, collection of songs.

Gary is probably best known as the drummer for The Movement, a band in the vein of Sublime and Roots of Creation (minus the jams). For Food For Ya Brain Gary takes vocals and has the JAHmen backing him up. The band is excellent when it comes to executing tight, tight grooves. Their knack for drum n’ bass focus bolsters Gary, as he doesn’t have the best voice, but he certainly has some of the best delivery. The melodies are nothing new, pulling on classic dancehall verse-dropping. There are so many tracks that some are bound to be great and others less enthused.

Take “Gideon Song”, where Gary rattles off lines like, “The time is now/ to reach your destiny/ Have to light the chalice with my natural remedy,” and “Life is a journey/ Let Jah lead the way,” in the chorus. Under certain circumstance, the pound and thump of this song, among others, is good enough for a great time. However, is it something like John Brown’s Body, Passafire, or Gary’s own The Movement? No, it’s not quite so forward-thinking.

Of course, there is the title track, a ganja anthem that puts many others to shame. Even if you’re not into toking, you’ll grin at the keys line, the bassline, and Gary skanking with pure joy things like, “Blaze it up in the morning/ I feel it alright,” and “Chalice always bubble/ ‘til I lay to rest.” Such an upbeat, fun, and clean (for its content) song is worth the price of admission alone. Gary’s a believer, and he doesn’t mind sharing his opinions on such.

He comes back to the topic with “Sweet Sensi”, which doesn’t match up to its counterpart, but it’s still juicy. “Don’t give me drugs/ I don’t want no pills,” he preaches in the chorus. “Some sell out/ to be one of the hive,” he swears later on. For the frustrated progressive-types, Gary’s singing your song.

Food For Ya Brain also has a slue of mediocre love songs. I’ve never had much patience for lovers rock, which recycles rhyme schemes, metaphors, and melodies way too much to be taken seriously, but like anyone else, Gary sometimes hits the right (albeit heavy serving) level of cheese, tipping things over the edge, and you can vibe to its overly simple existence.

What you really have here is an album with select tracks that showcase what Gary’s capable of, and with the JAHmen behind him he’ll reach it all someday. Fear of evolution is usually what traps an artist. Luckily, Gary hangs out with tons of innovators, so we’re sure to see Food For Ya Brain as that first album that really showed his potential.

Bottom line: Roots rock steady, dancehall, and love songs with a Florida vibe and heady grooves. Not bad for a side project.

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