This is the long-awaited debut from Wanganui based reggae group House of Shem.  The band’s strength is their phenomenal tightness and precision playing combined with the sweetness of their vocal harmonies.  Like other popular local groups Kora and Katchafire, this is no doubt down to genetics.   It’s most definitely a ‘whanau thing’ with Carl Perkins (Dad) steering the ship. 

Carl has been writing and playing reggae music for more than thirty years and as a member of such legendary groups as Herbs, Mana and The Twelve Tribes of Israel Band amongst others, his credentials are impeccable.  He is joined in this band by two of his sons, Te Omeka and Isaiah who not only both provide vocals and keyboards, but also share the song-writing duties with each contributing a third of the album’s songs.

It is this clever distribution of labour that gives the album its variety of flavours and the family’s tight musical bond that renders an overall cohesion.  Perkins senior’s compositions are statesman-like and rooted in the familiar tradition of the greats like Marley, Tosh and Spear.  Te Omeka provides a slightly more modern militant and ‘dread’ style whilst Isaiah brings the sweetness and youth.  Each of the three sing lead vocals on the tracks they have penned with the other two harmonizing.

Backing this vital vocal trio is one of the most formidable rhythm sections in the land – Kaya Webster, who has been playing the ‘one drop’ since primary school days and Francis Harawira, a mean bassist who hails from another well-known local reggae family.

Earlier recorded works like Dreams and What About The Children which were highlights of the best-selling Conscious Roots compilations are present and there’s no doubting that the title track, Keep Rising is a sure-fire hit, but it is Isaiah Perkins’ beautiful Jah Bless that steals the show for me.  Spiritual lyrics, state of the art production techniques and an understated but heavenly vocal style give this track everything that exemplifies excellence in modern roots music.

These guys display the best of both worlds – a traditional NZ roots reggae vibe combined with an innate knowledge of the latest Jamaican sounds.  The wisdom that comes with age and experience alongside a contemporary and youthful zeal.  For those that like local reggae, this album is a must.  It is a refreshingly strong debut and indicates that only great things are in store for this band’s future.

Dubhead