Strength To Survive
ATO Records
CD / Digital Release
September 25, 2012

Strength to Survive - SOJA Track list
  1. Mentality
  2. Strength to Survive
  3. Everything Changes
  4. Don't Worry
  5. Tell Me
  6. It's Not Too Late
  7. Gone Today
  8. Let You Go
  9. Not Done Yet
  10. Slow Down
  11. Be With Me Now
  12. When We Were Younger
  13. Gone Today [Acoustic 2010]
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Essential -Votes: 2-
Very Good -Votes: 3-
Good -Votes: 3-
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Total votes : 8
Rating : from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)
Vocals : 4 Backing : 4 Production : 5 Sound quality : 5 Sleeve : 4
Reggae Musik is alive and well in the United States; in every State imaginable. Over the years, there have been a reliant number of bands that have possessed Jah Golden pen. The Blue Riddim Band were one of the first; followed by Jack Miller and the legendary "Rastafarians", fronted by Haile Maskel and Herb Daly. In recent times, Groundation, John Brown's Body and uber-roots Boom Shaka kept the flame burning bright. Nowadays, SOJA (Soldiers Of Jah Army) are ably carrying a big Reggae bag. This Roots unit has released their fourth full length vocal effort, "Strength To Survive".

SOJA is a seven piece band hailing from Arlington, Virginia that linked together back in 1997. After spending his youth in Africa, frontman/guitar licks Jacob Hemphill came back to the States and acted on his Reggae dream with childhood idren Bobby Lee Jefferson (bassie). After a few crew changes; SOJA was completed with Ryan Berty on drums, Patrick O' Shea on keys, Kenneth Brownell on percussion duties and a wicked horn section comprised of Rafael Rodriquez (trumpet) and Hellman Escorcia on sax. SOJA quickly made a name for themselves on the East Coast.

As fate had it, they booked studio time at nearby Lion And Fox Studio. This is the game changing studio owned by Jim Fox that was the site for countless Don Carlos, Israel Vibration, Peter Broggs and Roots Radics projects during the glorious RAS Record years. As a result, their first self-titled effort was released in 2000 and was considered a great freshman effort with strong lyrics and polished production from Jim Fox. The accompanying dub album, "Dub In A Time Of War" (2005) was enthusiastically received. Their second vocal offering, "Get Wiser" (2006) went straight to iTunes Reggae Top Ten and stays in the Top 100 to this day. In January 2008, the powerful EP, "Stars And Stripes" showed their diversity. On January 9, 2009, "Born In Babylon" was outstanding both live and in studio! Fast forward to 2012, "Strength To Survive" was (once again) recorded at Lion And Fox Studios and in various locations in Virginia and California and boasts a rich mix from Jim Fox and crew.

The opener, "Mentality" is consistent with mature horns, intelligent songwriting and a vocal approach that has improved over the years; original stylee. The title track is a somber work that is engaging with nice guitar licks. "Everything Changes" is a standout selection with musical synchronicity and intelligency. "Don't Worry" and "Tell Me" take the slower road but will draw you in with authencity. "It's Not Too Late" has an anthem feel with old skool organ and horn section; blessed. "Gone Today" is poetic justice with tight backing that has to be on SOJA's live playlist. Solid drum and bass are the rulers on "Not Done Yet" with vocalisms reminiscent of Groundation's Harrison Stafford (Professor); itally works here. "Slow Down" is a progressive multi-layered track that is drawn out a bit but is feasible to the ears. "When We Were Younger" is slow riddimwise and the acoustic vibes will draw the listener in. The final track is an acoustic version of "Gone Today" that was recorded two years earlier. This acoustic version hits home with success.

SOJA's latest is the result of years of touring, perserverance and a strong relationship with one of the best recording engineers in the United States; Jim Fox. The band is recognized throughout Creation with an extensive tour of South America taking place in October 2012. What really stands out about this band is the depth of the songwriting and the overall unity of the band members. This is their best effort since "Get Wiser". SOJA is front and center to continue the momentum of quality Reggae Musik in the United States. Go deh.