With Hymns For The Rebel Soul, Rocky Dawuni has managed to pull off that same melding of roots reggae, world soul, and social consciousness that made Bunny Wailer’s Blackheart Man a classic.
As did Wailer all those years ago (34, actually, for you folks at home who keep track of that sort of thing), Dawuni manages to sing from the heart about heavy issues while driving his message home with welcoming melodies and totally infectious grooves. In a world where anger is too often the medium used to spread viewpoints and opinions, Dawuni nails the vibe preached by many but practiced by few. The resulting message is powerful without being intimidating.
Sounds and arrangements range from global drum circle with undercurrents of acoustic guitar skank (“Jerusalem”) to the moonlight-and-spliff love call of “Extraordinary Woman”. “Master Plan” does the deed with joyous Afrobeat (killer horn lines and all) while “Walls Tumbling Down” offers Dawuni’s soulful vocal and a cool-jazz guitar in the foreground with just-right touches of percussion, background vocals, and strings woven through. And when he just lets it roll old-school (tunes like the falsetto-sung “Heads Up High” and “Road To Destiny” with that pure-and-simple lead guitar tone), Dawuni proves that he totally understands and respects the roots of his world.
Hymns closes perfectly with “Take It Slow (Love Love Love)” – acoustic guitar tastefully embellished with finger snap rhythms; background chorus embracing Dawuni’s lead vocal without smothering it.
All in all, Hymns For The Rebel Soul captures the feel of the masters without mimicking their sound. Make no mistake – this album belongs to Rocky Dawuni … he’s just made sure that old fire stays lit.