Black Roots are a reggae group that have been going for an incredibly long time, and their newest album, ‘On The Ground’, is their first for a very long time. This modern look at reggae music could easily have passed for music made in the heyday of the genre, a few references to the ‘digital age’ aside. This means a rather typical combination of lyrical mastery, references to Jamaican culture, recognisable drum patterns, a healthy dose of brass instrumentation and a great sense of history with anyone listening to the album.
One cannot fault the ability of Black Roots to be able to draw the listener into a world which, in my case at the very least, they may not be entirely familiar. Lyrically, the album dwells upon a wide range of topics, and the group’s wordplay is certainly the strongest quality of the record.
The album consists of 17 tracks, and that both looks like a long album and feels like it too. Coming in at a very long 67 minutes, the album does feel like it repeats itself and then some over the course of the record. If one loves reggae, this is probably far from a problem, but for those who have only a casual relationship with the genre, this may result in the feeling that the album is dragging after the halfway mark.
This isn’t to say that the album is without its individual song-to-song merit. Opener ‘I Believe’ wastes no time in finding its groove and sets the pace which is maintained (for better or for worse) by the remaining 16 tracks. ‘Pompous Way’ explores modern themes of digital technology in a way which is invigorating, insightful and doesn’t betray the aesthetic qualities set with the opening track. ‘Hide Out’ springs up in the middle of the album and provides a joyfully upbeat anthem, which proves to be the most catchy of the 17 tracks.
The rather set formula of the music is both a blessing and a curse, and it turns more overtly into the later beyond the halfway mark as fewer and fewer new ideas are introduced into the mix. However, each song, however similar to the one that precedes it, is enjoyable, and that one cannot fault. The lyrics in particular are obviously those of a mature and developed band, and prove to be all the better because of it.
Written by Alex Watts