By Shelah Moody
Island Stage Magazine
What do reggae, blues, funk and improvisational music have in common? Prolific singer/songwriter/producer Harrison Stafford and Groundation have based their unique sound on fusing the music of the African Diaspora since they formed 20 years ago in Northern California. Propelled by Stafford’s mystic, reedy tenor, Groundation is perhaps the only American band to truly capture the essence of Jamaican roots music and the struggle. The tradition continues with Groundation ninth studio album, “The Next Generation,” scheduled for release on September 21.
Sustainability. Accountability. Creativity. Musicality. The singers and players of instruments may have changed, but the message remains the same. “The Next Generation” showcases the talents of Stafford and a talented group of musicians from Jamaica and California: Will Blades organ and clarinet, Isaiah Palmer, bass, Jake Shandling, drums, Brady Shammar and Aleca Smith, vocals and harmonies, Eduardo Gross, guitar, Craig Berletti, trumpet and Roger Cox, saxophone.
Aside from its brilliant instrumental and lyrical content, the best thing about “The Next Generation,” Groundation’s first studio album in four years, its impeccable sound quality; it was mastered by famed reggae engineer Jim Fox (Gregory Isaacs, Isreal Vibration, Don Carlos) and recorded on analog equipment from the 1970s. The album has a warm, pure feel reminicent of early Bob Marley and the Wailers recordings. Check out Groundation’s YouTube clip:
“The Next Generation” opens with some dissonant horn chords and leads into the roots and dub “Vanity,” which segues into the conscious dance track “One but Ten,” featuring an ebullient organ solo a la Blades. The one drop “New Life” draws on Hebrew and Rastafarian lore and prophecy to address global issues.
“Fossil Fuels” is song about our earth crisis, is the gem of “The Next Generation.” It’s the perfect California roots anthem and teaching tool for the clasroom. On top of that, “Fossil Fuels” features some of the coolest scatting and vocalization on the part of Harrison, followed by a rootsy sax solo by Cox.
“We should all aim to live a life of sustainability/instead of burning earth’s resources/while polluting the seas/They’re ripping out the seeds that grow naturally/Inside our earth, yeah/Leaves the land scarred and wasted for centuries/with no acountability at all…”
The 11 track album only gets better. It’s closing track “Father and Child” is a poignant ballad and and a prayer for the next generation that will leave you wanting to hear more from Groundation. For a preview of Groundation’s “Next Generation” and Pre-Order go to https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-next-generation/1396376500