Jason Wilson and Tabarruk Jonah

Tabarruk is a veteran band on the Canadian reggae scene. They originally got together (with help from the legendary Jackie Mittoo) in 1989 and have released two full-lengths and a number of cassettes since and Jonah is their latest and most polished work. Tabarruk have more than just reggae in their repertoire: elements of jazz, folk and, inevitably, R&B colour their sound. Overall, though, there is a serious pop sheen to this disc. Producer Jeffrey Holdip (The Luge Sessions, Big Sugar's Alkaline project) has achieved a full, slick sound with a few nice dubby touches and lots of space for the vocals and other instrumentation to interact. Tabarruk is not a reggae band jamming on one chord live in the studio - these are carefully constructed pop tunes. To Jonah's credit, its lyrics stay away from traditional reggae imagery, which often sounds fake coming from non-Jamaicans. The players are very musically proficient and there are lots of fancy chords that one wouldn't expect in reggae. Sometimes this works well, as in the instrumental "Africville Seasides." Elsewhere, tunes take one too many clever turns ("Forgiveness," "Hate") that could limit their radio-friendliness. The Achilles heel of Jonah is Wilson's vocals, which are lacking in personality, highlighting the sometimes overly literate lyrics. (Wheel)