Odel Johnson Redemption

I bought a Messenjah album on vinyl last year; it blew my head off. They're like an Ontario version of Steel Pulse. Odel Johnson drummed for that band and it's clear the man knows a thing or 20 about fat, soulful reggae grooves. On his second solo release, Johnson proves that the success of 2005's Juno nominated Mind and Body Sold was no fluke; Johnson has truly made the transition from drummer to reggae bard. The reggae tracks burst with juicy roots riddims and his taut arrangements are more reminiscent of Tosh and Marley than contemporary roots. "Into Forever" is well written and executed reggae cum R&B; "Dry Harbour Mountains" is a pure slice of early '80s Joseph Hill; and "Trod Natty" could stand against any roots track. The album deflates, however, when things veer away from reggae. The cover of "Harder They Come" is weakened by a buzzy, annoying electric guitar, and let's just say Johnson is no Jimmy Cliff when it comes to the vocals. Worse still is "Testify," an overwrought rock song with what sounds like a dozen guitar tracks ― that and the Lenny Kravitz-esque "Changes" sound like they belong on a different album. Still, when Johnson sticks to the roots reggae, he is a force to be reckoned with. (Ohm Grown)