I don’t claim to be an expert on reggae by any stretch but I definitely enjoy the music and I love fresh and upcoming artists. With that said the reggae genre appears to be on an incredible surge. Last year’s emergence of Matisyahu made it apparent that you don’t have to be black or Jamaican to sing reggae. Not only that but grassroots jam bands Dispatch and OAR blend a very heavy reggae influence with mainstream accessibility to bring the genre to the forefront of popular culture. Closer to reggae’s roots young Jamaican singer Abdel Wright put out one of the better CD’s released last year on a major label but he still went undiscovered. Even legends are giving reggae a shot. Willie Nelson tried his hand on his album Countryman.
However, none of these musicians come anywhere close to the musicianship and skill that young singer Joseph Israel captures on his Universal Music debut Gone Are The Days. From the opening beats on “Jerusalem” it is apparent that Joseph Israel is something special. He sounds like a Caribbean native and it’s hard to believe the kid grew up in Oklahoma and Arkansas listening to Sam Cooke.
Perhaps there’s a reason for his skill though. Israel spent a bunch of time in the Caribbean working with some of reggae’s biggest and most influential names and it appears it was time well spent. In a genre that is easy to mimic and rare to authenticate, Israel does exactly that and seems to be having a good time doing it. The horn-fueled track, “Jah Kingdom,” is soulful and bluesy and definitely stands out, and while the children speaking on “Mankind” is a bit kitschy, Gone Are The Days is an arresting and inspiring compilation of feel-good grooves.
If you’re looking for something new and light to get you dancing a little bit, I’d recommend Israel’s disc. 8 out of 10. More information is available at www.ilovethatsong.com/josephisrael