Review Summary: An excellent reggae album with fairly palpable consciousness.
After releasing three studio albums with his original backing band, Dubios Neighbourhood, and a side project work entitled Jahcoustix & The Outsideplayers, Munich singer comes back with a new support, the Yard Vibes Crew band, to bring his finest effort yet. Having spent his adolescent years in African countries supporting artists and traveling to Mexico, USA and Egypt is apparent that all those experiences and musical influences impregnated in his music.
His second release, Colourblind, was rather tedious as it virtually never experimented with different styles; actually it was generally acoustic driven songs and a couple of ragga tracks that felt very much disjointed. Grounded, which gained Jahcoustix more recognition, was released in 2006, after a two year tour that served him a stop at the Jazz Festival in Montreux. His third release saw a more varied approach, the individual songs were more focused but as a whole it didn’t seem very articulate.
Crossroads, as its name implies, is a multicultural journey that finally achieves consistency within the songs. Having a fairly good flow is even more varied than its predecessors. If I had to select genres from the cellar I’d say it ranges between roots, reggae, calypso, a pinch of jazz and yes, pop. A good example of pop songwriting is Symphony Of The Elements that also combines classical roots riddims, it is very smooth, slow and accessible. Instrumentally it doesn’t bring much and lyrically is very raw and repetitive as possibly the title suggests.
Opposing that, the title track serves as the perfect opening; it starts quietly and then burst with trumpets and percussion in a Ska manner. Jahcoustix’s fellow citizen, Gentleman, makes an appearance singing verses through the entire track giving his own upbeat vibe. Hold On is also very energetic but in a different approach, lyrically and musically (including the melodious backup vocals) feels like it was ripped from the 70’s and production quality, in particular the bass, is excellent.
Higher Grounds is a little bit slower but in a very refined way, the instruments often take turns to briefly showcase soulful details that are better heard with headphones. I commend the apparent electro-acoustic guitar on here because, even if it is not the focal point on the song, I think it does bring a nice mood in its short-lived moments. True To Yourself is a highlight; while most of the songs are about everyday issues and sometimes political troubles, this one is more honest and personal which is clear why it’s almost entirely acoustic. What Is Religion For is about, well, exactly what its title suggests. The singing alternates with (almost) talked verses and a smooth sung chorus, clocking at 2:54, it turns out to be a very interesting piece. Jahcoustix’s not-so distinctive caribbean timbre is present throughout Crossroads but it never gets tiring, the man proves conviction and passion to what he is doing and that’s enough to enjoy the album.
Anyone interested in reggae will definitely find something to like in here; Jahcoustix once again proofs his development as an artist, combining his acoustical sentiment with a Bob Marley-esque riddim section, plus he brings contemporary styles to make a solid wide-ranging effort.