Morgan Heritage: Strictly Roots Album Review

On Strictly Roots, reggae’s feel good family takes it back to the tabernacle with a passionate and inspired celebration of reggae roots and culture. Rastafari runs strong throughout this set, which includes inspired performances from a diverse set of accomplished artists including revival firebrand Chronixx, Jo Mersa Marley of the Ghetto Youths Crew, Hawaii’s J Boog, SOJA’s Bobby Lee, and Shaggy.

Morgan Heritage hails reggae’s various incarnations like roots and culture, dancehall, revival, ragga, modern roots to…STOP! Wheel and come again my selecta! BOOM! Strictly Roots brilliantly showcases the evolution of reggae from its humble beginnings to its universal appeal. From Solomon to Selassie, Chronicle to Chronixx, Marley to Jo Mersa this music is like blood that pumps through the heart beating in time with the nyabinghi. Strictly Roots is not just a salute to reggae’s roots but a living testament to its global appeal and wide-ranging influence. It is an album that acknowledges the American reggae contingent, placing it front and center on songs like “So Amazing,” “Wanna Be Loved,” and “We are Warriors.”

Morgan also pays homage to reggae’s original torchbearer, Bob Marley. The skipper’s spirit is alive and kicking with fury throughout, with stories about “three o’clock road blocks,” “slogans”(“Light It Up”) and a several Carly Barrett drum roll samples (check “Rise and Fall” and “Wanna Be Loved”) that will send a shudder through your soul.

Morgan Heritage sheds the R&B elements of their signature sound, coming instead with stripped-to-the-bone yet surprisingly accessible anthems that will turn out and smoke up the festival circuit this summer. The group shines brightest on tracks like “Strictly Roots,” “Rise and fall,” and “Why Dem Come Around,” three of the best-produced Morgan tracks I’ve heard in years.   While the guest vocalists put in commendable performances, none measure up to the incredibly gifted and well-rehearsed vocals of the brothers and sisters Morgan. Joe Mersa gives an exuberant performance on the slamming futuristic EDM-influenced “Light It Up,” an instant radio hit if I’ve ever heard one. SOJA’s redneck Rasta Bobby Lee spices up “We Are Warriors” with his signature ruff and raucous ragamuffin growl.

With Strictly Roots Morgan Heritage has crafted their best album in years – a melodic, well-produced, and insightful set of rootikal yet radio-friendly reggae tunes. In these thirteen tracks the group has formulated the perfect balance between authentic Jamaican roots reggae and an undeniably appealing pop sound. The tracks resonate with emotion and the vocals are delivered with the sincerity and passion of an old gospel tune. So give me more of that old time religion man it’s good enough for me.