Godfather Of Reggae
Joe Higgs
Jobby LCC
Digital Release
September 29, 2015

Track list
  1. Working It Out
  2. Caution
  3. Ah So It Go
  4. Vineyard
  5. The Willow
  6. She Was The One
  7. Dear Mother
  8. And It Stoned Me
  9. You Don't Have To See me
  10. Mistakes That I Made
  11. Never Let You Go
  12. So Fantastic
  13. Talk The Talk
  14. When I Hear The Melody
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 5 Backing : 5 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4
Any lover of reggae is familiar with the name Joe Higgs. The reggae pioneer who helped train the vocal Trench Town trio group that became The Wailers (Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer) and mentor to Jimmy Cliff. While often elsewhere referred to as the Father of Reggae, his distinctive vocal style and the lyrical content of his songs well deserves the title of both Father and Godfather of Reggae.

Recorded in 1997 and 1998 in both Ireland and Jamaica, this posthumous release (Joe Higgs succumbed to a battle with cancer in 1999) exhibits an amazing musical quality and dynamic sound due to backing of the Irish folk band Hot House Flowers in Dublin, and Wayne Jobson of the reggae band Native and Max Hinds, son of Justin Hinds in Ocho Rios. Produced by renowned traditional Irish music artist/producer Donal Lunny, the album track selection is an incredible collaboration of musical genres. Quoted in the Jamaica Observer in June 2015, Jobson said that the Dublin and Ocho Rios sessions were recently discovered and re-mastered and, "are amongst Joe's best ever and were his final works before his untimely passing (in 1999)." Having the good fortune of knowing individuals who Joe Higgs asked to manage for him around the time of the recording sessions, I got to hear a few of the demos and have longed yearned for the release of an album.

While mostly roots reggae, the inclusion of traditional Irish instruments make the songs exceptional. The first track, "Working It Out", is an example, with the heavy bottom riddim backing of reggae being blended with the Irish accordion and classic rock guitar riffs over the top. On the next track, "Caution" Bob Marley classic, Joe Higgs shows that a mentor can pick up a protégé's song and do it justice. This acoustical rendition, with the addition of violins and accordion, blends so well that you can't tell when the reggae vibe ends and the Irish jig begins. The re-release of "And So It Go" (from "Black Man Know Yourself") is a song that shows Joe Higgs related with the suffering of those who don't have "big friends". Two other re-releases, "She's The One" (from "Life Of Contradiction") and "Vineyard" (from "Unity Is Power") also sound astounding given the re-production and remastering. A song that stood out on the demo I heard is "Mistakes I Made", a great song of inspiration of overcoming bad decisions and their consequences. The album ends with the wonderful song, "When I Hear A Melody", which conjures up for me a vision of Joe performing live as an encore.

From the first track to the last are classic examples of why Joe Higgs can be considered both the Father and Godfather of Reggae.