‘Reggae Got Soul’: Etana’s ‘I Rise’ her best yet

Etana’s ‘I Rise’ showcases one of contemporary music’s greatest voices and proves yet again that Clive Hunt is the most formidable producer in reggae. The album entered the Billboard Top Reggae Albums chart at number 7, and topped the chart in its second week of release. Remember when Etana was considered the greatest female voice in reggae? Such a statement is almost ridiculous at this point when one considers how fully evolved she is now as a vocalist. With a voice that is capable of breaking your heart and mending it back within 3:30, Etana is putting the soul back in reggae. More Judy than Marcia, Etana is a throwback to the great soul singers of the seventies, with the hot-buttered appeal of Nina Simone. Yes, she is that good.

Her rendition of Bob Marley’s “Selassie Is The Chapel” is the finest recording of this solemn tune since Marley’s original. “On My Way” is the strongest track on the album and one that has been on repeat in my car since I copped the album. She is the embodiment of beauty, dignity, and respect on “Jamaican Woman.” This is an album that starts strong with “Chapel” and builds – strength upon strength – until it finishes with “Jah Jah.” The fact that the album is book-ended on both sides by Rasta is no accident. Etana is unashamed – a strong, proud, black Rasta woman to her core.

The brilliant Clive Hunt has assembled a virtual dream team of musicians to back Etana with Flabba, Sly & Robbie, Skully Sims, Bubbler Waul, Danny “Axe man” Thompson, Garth “Ducky” Forrester, Lamont “Monty” Savory, Handel Tucker and more. Hunt has created an album with weight and gravity and a dense, crisp, and well-mixed sound that I am not hearing anywhere else. Make no mistake, Etana and Hunt are a match made in Zion.

etanairise

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