By Tom Orr
Rightly one of the most acclaimed reggae artists to emerge in recent years, St. Lucia’s Taj Weekes returns with a third release that’s more than simply a worthy successor to the first two. It’s everything a reggae release ought to be: conscious, topical, heartfelt, thoughtful, optimistic despite an often-dark outlook and rooted while embracing some measure of sounds outside the reggae realm. Weekes’ high-pitched, sometimes childlike voice remains a formidably plaintive instrument, and on A Waterlogged Soul Kitchenhe’s found new ways to use it.
The riddims here are more acoustic-based than what Weekes and his wonderfully tight band Adowa have done in the past, creating an intimacy befitting an album with a title that references the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and acknowledges suffering on a personal level (“Two Joints“) and, more importantly, a widespread one (“Rain Rain,” “B4 the War,” “Anthems of Hope“). No matter what the specific subject matter, Weekes’ perspective seems to reach out beyond in a voice that often sounds weary itself but offers empathetic comfort to the weary as well.
The music can be plentifully comforting too, most prominently so on the irresistible rocksteady/mento sway behind “Shadow of a Bird.” Still, when Weekes aims to be a bit more harrowing, he can just as effectively apply the Lee Perry-ish production values of “Janjaweed” or foreboding rock textures on the closing “Drill.” Under 39 minutes in length but without so much as a second wasted, A Waterlogged Soul Kitchen has so many great moments that it’s hard to know where to begin or end. Listen, immerse and enjoy.