- 19 May 20
Soon Come: Jamaica's Next Star
If you know the name of Mortimer McPherson at all, it might be from the last two albums by the Grammy-nominated reggae revival man Protoje, who employed the singer’s sweet voice on both ‘Truth & Rights’ and ‘Protection’. Let's allow Protoje’s dancehall leanings, as he also gave a leg up to Chronixx, who delivered one of the best reggae songs of the last few years with 2017’s ‘Skankin’ Sweet’, and the parent album Chronology is seriously recommended too.
Mortimer’s ‘Lightning’ gives Chronixx a serious run for his money. Released last year, it’s as much a soul song as a reggae one, Mortimer cites both Marley and Donny Hathaway as influences. His charred molasses voice slips in and out of falsetto and even gives it a bit of scat at one point, driving the gentle lapping of this love song, lifted by both steel guitar and brass stabs. It takes its time to get where it’s going, the groove is in no hurry, but it’s irresistible - go on, play it. If it doesn’t make you feel better, I’ll give you back the price of this review. If you want the perfect soundtrack for your strict 5km walk in the sunshine, here it is. Even if it’s raining, this one will transport you directly to Whitehall, St. Elizabeth.
'Lightning’ is the highlight of Fight The Fight – which came out digitally last year but arrived on vinyl in this one – but this mini-album is no one-trick show. ‘Careful’, a single from 2017, is of a more strident bent, as Mortimer warns against people who let you down, backed by the kind of horns found on the latter Bob Marley albums and some squeals of guitar. 'Misery' urges those who “have been taking life for granted” to reconsider as an insistent keyboard riff makes the chorus.
The title track’s melody and arrangement – backing vocals, horns, and what sounds like clavinet buried in the background – is the kind of roots reggae they’re not supposed to be making anymore, and ‘Style & Grace’ builds on that, incorporating a bit of lover’s rock from the man out the front, reminding the listener of the sweeter songs on that Chronixx album or, even better, some of the magic of the Cool Ruler, Gregory Isaacs. The middle eight, where the different vocal tracks swirl around each other, is a beautiful yoke altogether.
The closing ‘No Lies’ sets another soul chorus against a quasi-dancehall toast/rap flow in the verses, but the arrangement steers clear of that sub-genres worst excesses. Mortimer has already followed all this with a new single, the lovely, dubby ‘Road To Trod’. If that and this E.P. are anything to go by, the album, when it arrives, will land like a hammer, albeit one wrapped in velvet.