Title
Artist
Label
Format
Date

Holding On To Life
Deyansa
Silver Kamel Audio
CD
December 8, 2005

Track list
  1. Holding On To Life
  2. Our Father
  3. Africa Calling
  4. Strong Woman
  5. Prevail
  6. Let Love Reign
  7. I'm Falling
  8. What A Difference A Day Makes
  9. Give You My Love
  10. When We Find Jah
  11. Pain And Sorrow
  12. Good People
  13. Where Do We Go From Here
  14. Anniversary Dub
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 4 Production : 4 Sound quality : 4 Sleeve : 5
At a time when a majority of reggae appears to be really struggling to grasp four essential qualities -- dramatic suspense, originality, inspiration and a definitive sense of strangeness/other worldliness -- it is a joy to hear unmediated and uncoerced talent like Deyansa's.

Thankfully, Deyansa does not limit himself to currently prevalent clichés, but rather his voice has echoes of Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers and even Ben Harper. Essentially though, he is a classical roots singer in the vein of Congo Ashanti, K.D. Levi and early Culture -- with a very slight touch of early ONU vocal arrangements at points.

"Strong Woman" sounds like a classical jazz vocal arrangement from a great talent such as Betty Carter, with very pleasant backing vocals which make the tune sound like early New Age Steppers or Singers And Players. (Think Bim Sherman's "Sit And Wonder" or New Age Stepper's "My Love") However, the song is only spoiled by dull, stagnant lyrics which serve to bring down its higher inspiration.

The female backing vocalists --who sound like they just stepped out of an early ONU Sound session -- are beautiful, uplifting, and have an ambience of strangeness about their style -- the latter is certainly commendable in this time of wider rigid musical uniformity.

"I'm Falling" and "What A Difference A Day Makes" both show the range and purity of expression Deyansa possesses, proving himself to be equally comfortable with contemporary Blue Note style arrangements as with conventional roots formats.

Musically, whilst this album is conventional and doesn't break much new ground at all -- it is still powerfully, spiritually uplifting, with taut rim shot led mixes. And most thankfully -- there is not a single minor chord "steppers" cliché in sight on the whole album. And in his favour, it seems Deyansa has little interest in digging up decades old, banal one drop stereotypes just for the sake of a hyped "revival". And another blessing -- breathe a sigh of relief -- there are NO do overs of decades old rhythms anywhere here, but rather the album features all fresh tracks.

This is a worthy, emotional debut, and this fine, talented vocalist deserves to reach to a new level. Let's hope he can make it given the current state of the industry, because an emotional voice like Dyansa's deserves a broader, imaginative audience and not one restricted a to a diet of rigid cliche.

(The outer sleeve is mediocre -- but the inner sleeve design is an effective naïve folk art collage)