Kenny Smyth – Powerful Dread
01. Stronger feat. Earl Sixteen
02. Stronger Dub feat. Earl Sixteen
03. Pagan Land (LP Version)
04. Pagan Land Dub
05. Roots Girl
06. Roots Girl Dub
07. Feel It
08. Feel It Dub
10. Roots Dub
11. Can’t Say I Didn’t Tell You
12. Can’t Say I Didn’t Tell You Dub
Known as the “Breadbasket Singer” due to growing up in the peaceful rural parish of St. Elizabeth in Jamaica, Kenny Smyth is no novice to music. At a young age, he learned to play the guitar from his father and went on to develop his skills on other instruments such as bass, drums, and keyboards while also honing his songwriting and vocal abilities. In May 2013, he auditioned for Jamaica’s top talent show, and although he made it to the top fourteen, he did not enter the finals. However, he was brought back into the competition as a wild card by T.O.K.’s Craigy T a few months later, and he impressed Jamaica with his soulful and raspy voice, earning fourth place in the end.
Since then, he has utilized his songwriting skills and unveiled his first single, I Love You, which was produced by Craigy T for GAFJAM Records. Subsequently, Kenny Smyth has advanced substantially in his music career and has composed and recorded tracks for various labels, such as Bombrush Records, Addis Records, Big Ship Records, and AJT Music Production. Emudio Records released Serious Business, the rising artist’s 2017 debut EP. A decade after participating in the talent show, he has now accomplished the creation of his full-length debut album.
The Tuff Gong All Stars, composed of Kirk “Kirkledove” Bennett on drums, Jason Arthur Welsh on bass, the late Garth “Duckie” Forester on guitars, and Andrew “Stringy” Marsh on organ and piano, form the core group of musicians who provided the riddims for Kenny Smyth. They are accompanied by an impressive lineup of reggae musicians, including Dean Fraser on saxophone, Vivaldo Brown on binghi drums, Hector “Roots Percussionist” Lewis on percussion, Hornsman Coyote on trombone, Mario “Djeynah Delbety” Delbe on guitar, Marc Baronner on bass, guitar, keys, and percussion, Everton Pessoa on trombone, Okiel McIntyre and Dwight Richards on trumpet. All the tracks were recorded at Tuff Gong in Kingston, Jamaica, under the guidance of musical director Mario “Djeynah Delbety” Delbe and engineer Roland McDermott, while the mixing was done by Marc Baronner at Bass Galore Productions in Leiden, the Netherlands. The producers are Ras Denco and Marc Baronner.
Aptly titled Powerful Dread, this showcase style album is the result of Kenny Smyth’s collaboration with the much celebrated Dutch reggae label, JahSolidRock Music. The first track, Stronger, combines the voices of the young “Breadbasket Singer” and well-respected UK-based reggae veteran Earl Sixteen, who frequently collaborates with JahSolidRock Music. Stronger, a thoroughly delightful opening to the album, is set to a familar riddim, which is actually a remarkable revitalized version of Marley’s classic Roots Rock Reggae. What a great way to start this album, especially as its dub counterpart further accentuates the beauty of the riddim. The next track, Pagan Land, gained notable attention when its official music video was released three months ago. This LP Version and its accompanying dubbed up version are a highlight of the album. Another big riddim comes to the fore when the Roots Girl leaps off the speakers. It’s captivating to the ears and repeated listens only enhance the already lovely vibes of this entertaining song.
The beginning of the second part of the Powerful Dread album is marked by Feel It, an incredible composition that showcases beautiful horn sections, enhancing the song’s appeal. Surprisingly, its version, Feel It Dub, surpasses the vocal cut, which doesn’t happen that often. This dub is so stunningly beautiful that listening to it over and over again is a real treat. It’s extremely difficult to recreate the same level of excitement as the previous superb track and, unfortunately, Roots does not succeed in doing so. However, this is not to imply that this track and its subsequent dub are not worth listening to. On the contrary, they are both well-crafted pieces, but they still fall short of the remarkable qualities that make Feel It Dub so exceptional. Nonetheless, the final two tracks on the album, Can’t Say I Didn’t Tell You and Can’t Say I Didn’t Tell You Dub, approach the same caliber as Feel It Dub and consequently provide an absolute delight to the ears.
Rarely does an artist accomplish the feat of making a profound impact with a debut album. However, Kenny Smyth, in collaboration with the consistently excellent JahSolidRock, is one of the few artists who successfully achieves this.