Soothsayers: Human Nature

This new album from London’s mightily impressive Southsayers, produced by Manasseh and Yesking (in the Prince Fatty Brighton studio), is a splendid collection of urgent tracks. The style is three- part harmony from Robin Hopcraft, Idris Rahman and Julia Biel, underpinned with precise dub and reggae rhythms meticulously produced in a classic reggae style. It opens with the brief ‘Human Nature (Intro)’ which sets the vocal and dub tone for the rest of the album. ‘One Day’ follows up with strong melody and vocals (with a short dub version a few tracks later…). ‘Hard Times’ is reminiscent of 70s/80s British urban reggae with its slow and purposeful melody and rhythm. ‘Human Nature’ follows in full with a different rhythm, before encountering ‘We’re Not Leaving’, an excellent reggae song that could well have come from the vaults – but didn’t, here it represents a fine contemporary band in full flight. An acoustic version of the same song is included – powerful, and more affecting for its sparse instrumentation: a standout song.

There is little to be unhappy about here. Then we get to ‘Streets of London’ which does come as a bit of a surprise. Had I learned in advance that the Soothsayers were contemplating a version of Ralph McTell’s song I would not have believed it, and, were I persuaded to believe it, I would have walked a considerable distance, in my worn out shoes, to avoid hearing it. But what a mistake that would have turned out to be; the version is a revelation. The descending/ascending chords that could have underwritten melodies over countless years are startlingly fitting for a reggae treatment and are here given a tight effective makeover. ‘Streets of London’ is also the initial single release from the album, comprising – as a single – three tracks that get progressively dubbier: the original vocal version (radio edit), a dubbed up version of the original and finally a perfectly mixed dub version proper. Let me take you by the hand…

The album closes with a nice little ‘Leaving Dub Outro (Prince Fatty Mix)’ and what a pleasant and surprising journey it was. Let’s be honest here – this album deserves to be heard widely and loudly.

Soothsayers: Streets of London single, release 1 October 2012; Human Nature album (CD/download) release 29 October 2012, Red Earth Music.

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