This new release from Ras Sis Highness – Rosalind Brooks/Simpson, born in the UK but having spent much of her life in Jamaica – is her debut album. Although it clearly demonstrates the influence of vintage era reggae (as she says, “I have been inspired by a lot of vintage and veteran artists such as Horace Andy, Dennis Brown, Bob Marley and many more…”) it would do the album a disservice to label it as a revivalist nostalgia exercise. Its rhythms and production are cutting-edge, its style is contemporary as well as being influenced by the past. The striking opening track ‘Jah Love’ is a slow-paced roots song with a loping rhythm that could have come straight from Lee Perry, together with an excellent echo/dub instrumentation behind the sweet vocal track, fading out in a classic dub style. Next up is ‘Vous Aimez Jah’, a straightforward reggae track with a simple circular melody, reminiscent almost of a traditional song or a tune from the blues, an impression reinforced by the presence of a distinctly retro organ happily making itself known in the mix. ‘One One Coco’ is a standout, its three chords providing a Shanty Town feel to the rhythm, with the minimal mix – percussion and skanking guitar up front – providing a great backdrop to the vocals. It draws to a conclusion with a strong dubbed-up instrumental section. The title track itself has a slow and sharp rhythm, again hinting at the influence of blues as well as of the reggae classics, while ‘Kulcha’ reminds us that the album is brand new in 2012, not something unearthed from the archives: its faster rhythm is unrelenting in supporting the vocal, again with a minimal mix of instruments apart from a driving percussive rhythm which provides the backbone for the track. For good measure, it’s followed by an instrumental version of the same track which in no way sounds ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’. Much the same could be said of closing track ‘Steppin’ which leans toward the dubstep venue where Ras Sis Highness made her public musical debut.
With production and mixing from Digikal Roots, and executive production from Gibsy Rhodes, this release sounds like a labour of love and makes for an excellent debut – “in the future I would like to work with a live band and travel to perform for my fans is this is for them very much indeed. Look out for me”.
Temptation by Ras Sis Highness, CD and download, Springline Jamaica/Roots Lab Intl Records, July 2012.