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Taj Weekes | A Waterlogged Soul Kitchen

Album review by John Powell

Boy Without God | God Bless The Hunger

St. Lucian musician Taj Weekes may be categorized as a reggae artist, but his initiative is actually singer/songwriter based, creating an interesting and refreshing blend of musical approaches that are both spiritual and refined to the basics of instrumentation. Thus, Taj, along with his band Adowa, have produced A Waterlogged Soul Kitchen, (more a singer/songwriter title than a reggae one, am I right?)

Overall, the feel is mellow, with frills by lead guitar and swampy organ. On top of that, Taj produces easy to follow but unique melodies. Only two songs break the four-minute mark, and one doesn’t even hit three. The album flies through, never able to get boring, and the lyrics are some of the most conscious takes on classic themes. It’s when Taj gets specific that he gets original.

“Just A Dream” isn’t one of those moments. It’s a vague song about feeling lost and finding the “Joy deep inside.” It does however, have a catchy chorus that ends, “Let’s see life’s sunny side.” The instrumentation is roots reggae, keeping things moving. Taj’s voice is the best element of the album. He sounds a bit like Nasio Fontaine, and therefore has hints of Marley, Stephen Marley, that is. He never raises his voice. He never shouts. Neither does he ever wallow. He sings with intention and factually, like delivering his own version of a public address.

“Janajaweed”, however, a bass-driven tune, turns on the fire. Taj tends to write songs with just a handful of lines that he recycles, almost like a reel. It makes it easy to learn the words and it makes it easy to sing along. “Someone planted a seed,” he sings, “weeded and watered with greed. After a while a sprout broke through.” It’s a great tune.

“B4 The War” is an example of where the folkier side of Taj comes through. With acoustic guitar and rolling snare percussion, Taj says, “Before the war I had a life/before I was a puppet/before I killed for profit.” Being able to take on the role of another and sing through their eyes is something Taj is good at and utilizes, whether he’s doing it critically or sympathetically is up to the listener. “B4 The War” ends with a delicious Colonial flute solo that comes out of nowhere, but is a nice surprise.

It’s on “Sunny Incidents” that Taj’s songwriting really takes a hold. Adowa is a tight group. The music here is punctuating, ominous, like the soundtrack to a villain’s entrance, and yet while it borders this campy strut it remains rootsy. It starts, “She was not equipped to withstand you,” and later, “Your incestuous desire saw no child at play.” It’s a direct letter to some sort of a pedophiliac and when the refrain comes, “Straighten up and fly right,”- taken from the funny child song- it hits home.

Similarly, “Oil slicks on the water/there’s battle on the border,” goes “Anthems of Hope”, an ironic title for a song that’s a long list of everything that’s going wrong in the world. “Saddam and Osama,” Taj says plainly; “The 44th’s Obama.” The lyrics are great, and never come off contrived.

“Shadow of a Bird” is the most impressive song on A Waterlogged Soul Kitchen, in which Taj sings, “I was born of rape/whose pride am I? There’s no parent to go home to.” The song features horns, incredible backing vocals, and builds beautifully.

Taj reflects reggae in that he creates very positive vibes, each song bouncing and rhythmic, but lyrically he attacks important issues. Adoni, Radss, John, Cornel, and Valerie, who make up Adowa, back him up wonderfully on this highly thoughtful collection of songs.

Extra bit: the actual CD comes with a booklet and the lyrics, an unheard of modern mode of music sharing.

Bottom line: Tough topics approached nicely by a great singer and his groovy band.


 

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