Parables is the sophmore release from Tarrus Riley (the son of famed roots-era singer, Jimmy Riley). It continues the recent trend in Jamaican music that has seen a shift away from digital dancehall toward roots-style live instrumentation.
The album has strong roots credentials with veteran saxophonist Dean Fraser on production duties and cameos from roots legends like Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare and Nambo Robinson.
On first listen, I was very impressed by the opening tracks. The riddims are tight and at times bear remarkable similarity to Katchafire’s modern roots sound.
Riley fuses his soulful voice with the contemporary singjay style to great effect. His lyrics are deeply conscious and convey a message of love, hope and Rastafari. He goes beyond the generic criticism of Babylon and touches on complex issues such as Jamaica’s gun culture, the need for greater tolerance, and the fact that all human being are related somewhere down the line.
However there are aspects of this album that I don’t really enjoy. I feel Parables has been a bit over-produced which gives it a pop vibe that occasionally detracts from his message.
I also don’t like that the second half of the album is dominated by lover’s tunes that at times cross into RnB terriority. The track Africa Awaits in particular sounded more akin to Mariah Carey than to roots reggae.
However all in all this is a solid album that conveys a really positive message.