Saturday Dec 16
Review: Jah Works – Believe

Jah Works – Believe
BelieveTrack Listing:
1.) Water
2.) So Lovely (Right By My Side)
3.) Show Not Tell
4.) Greener Pastures
5.) Too Much Love
6.) Believe In Yourself
7.) Gravity
8.) Wasn’t Meant To Be
9.) Still Going On
10.) Rumbling Time
11.) Tonite’s The Nite
12.) Take The Place
13.) Still Dubbin’ On

The Pier Album Rating:

Release Date: May 27th, 2016
Record Label: Riddim House Productions
Official Website: Jah Works Website

Artist Background:
Jah Works is a roots reggae 6-piece out of Baltimore, MD. The Charm City natives are veterans in the East Coast reggae scene, with over 20 years of experience providing fresh spins on classic, roots-inspired tracks. Jah Works is the collective effort of Scott Paynter (lead vocals), Kevin Gorman (guitar), Brian Gorman (keys), Mike Hamilton (bass), Natty Roc (sax & vocals), and Jon Pang (drums). After 9 albums of music, Jah Works welcomes Believe to their collection, making an even 10. Jah Works have established themselves as one of the East Coast’s elite roots bands, consistently playing hundreds of shows each year, particularly in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia).

Album Review:
Named after The Gladiators’ 1978 song “Jah Works”, the eponymous Baltimore-based band deliver a worthy roots album for their 10th release. Believe is a soothing and spiritual set of tracks. Frontman Scott Paynter sings sweetly and the band plays tightly behind him. However, that is exactly where the album falls short of breaking into that next echelon of reggae albums. It seems at times as if there is a box that Jah Works is playing within. They come close, but never quite break out of it. Obviously roots music is built on a solid, steady rhythm, but the best always fine a way to incorporate a unique flare.

The musicianship is certainly top-notch throughout Believe. The bustling of horns are complimented by thick bass lines, prominent drum beats, and quality work on the guitar and keys. Paynter is hardly a vocal virtuoso, but his voice has a caressing tone and he knows when to hold a note.

“Water” kicks off the album strong and making a case as one of the top songs on the tracklist. It’s always bold to start an album with a nearly 6 minute jam, but this song connects right away. There is a simple, but sweet guitar riff timely tucked in between the horn section. “Show Not Tell,” a track laced with melodica and a catchy chorus follows shortly after, making for a pair of solid tunes at the start.

The mid-section of Believe loses quite a bit of steam though. There really are no bad songs, which is due mainly to the professional level of the band’s musicians, but there are more than a handful of songs that leave room for listeners to check out. The verses on “So Lovely (Right By My Side)” come off a bit awkward, despite an enjoyable hook. “Greener Pastures” is one of the more upbeat songs, but Jah Works is far more effective at slow skanking pace. Certain songs like “Wasn’t Meant To Be” slowly grew on me after digesting all of the elements, where others remain bleak.

However, Believe does contain two gems, “Still Going On” and “Rumbling Time,” which play back to back, are two serious grooves. Kevin Gorman displays his best guitar work on “Still Going On,” a relaxing song that reflects back on all the years Jah Works has put in. For good measure, Jah Works included a dubbed remix of the song titled “Still Dubbin On.” Hidden at the end of Believe is my favorite song on the album, “Rumbling Time.” Paynter lays down some militant rhymes, announcing, “it’s a rather humbling time, time to get the troops in line.” It’s one of the instances where Jah Works does in fact break loose and deliver a powerful song.

Believe is one of those albums that’s enjoyable while you are cooking or cleaning and need something to vibe out to. If you are a roots reggae lover than it’s definitely worth a listen, but likely won’t resonate with those more keen on the alternative reggae-rock spectrum. I wasn’t enamored by every song on the album, but Jah Works put together a scattering of really good songs.

Written & Reviewed By: Brian Winters

[Editors Note: All reviews are reflective of the album in it’s entirety, from start to finish. These reviews are the honest opinion of each writer/reviewer expressing their feedback as a genuine fan of the music. Each star rating reflects their review of the album, NOT the band. Music is subjective. Regardless of the review or star rating, we encourage you to listen to the music yourself & form your own opinion. Spread the awareness of all music in its art & contribution]

Watch: Jah Works – “Rumbling Time” (lyric video)

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