Fertile Ground Seasons Change

When I spoke with Fertile Ground bandleader James Collins and vocalist Navasha Daya one year ago, they were beginning work on what was to become Seasons Change, the band's third studio album. "It's going to be better and more evolved," Collins had said. "We're all refining. We're tighter as a band today than we were yesterday, by eons." Understatement. Seasons Change is by far the strongest release to date from this soulful Baltimore band, also the first to feature all six members. "We're consciously trying to grow as people individually and as a band," Daya had shared. "We're always studying and learning different things and bringing that to the table." It shows. Fertile Ground sings songs of living, loving and learning, incredibly optimistic, realistic and 100 percent human. Theirs is a truth worth absorbing again and again, never preachy, always touching. "One day, love becomes a bullet that just blows the world away," Daya sings on "Freedom," a gorgeous song of hope that reminds of classic '70s soul and the best of the acid jazz days while sounding absolutely fresh. "The Moment" is slow, sexy and confident soul-funk, full of stories, horns and calls to appreciate life. Hip-hop plays a role in "Like Poetry," a tribute to evolution, contributions and dreams, name-checking the likes of Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks and Langston Hughes. "Culture Bandits" travels roots reggae terrain while taking aim at music made solely for radio and profit. And, as always with Fertile Ground, the ballads are well represented. "More 2 Life" and "Take Me Higher" are two absolute standouts, the latter a dreamy gift of love and positivity. Fertile Ground performs live at Toronto's Una Mas, Friday, July 12. (Counterpoint)