If your idea of a perfect afternoon is drinking a Miller Lite and playing a little hacky sack while jamming to a Dave Matthews Band cover of Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up,” you might enjoy “Strength to Survive,” the latest album from NoVa reggae group Soldiers of Jah Army, or SOJA. And if that scenario just made you gag a little bit, you may very well still enjoy the album.
SOJA, local-circuit-fixture-turned-big-time-touring-band, has released its latest work on Dave Matthews’s ATO Records, and the project was produced by John Alagia, who has worked with O.A.R., John Mayer and . . . Dave Matthews Band. But according to lead singer/guitarist Jacob Hemphill, the primary inspiration was not Matthews, but Bob Marley and his 1979 album “Survival.” “Strength to Survive” bears the mark of both influences: The album is a likable mix of traditional roots reggae broken down for the casual listener and party reggae as re-imagined by jam bands such as DMB and Phish.
Genre snobs should be able to get behind the album’s headier compositions, including “Mentality” and the title track, which open the album with a boom, thanks to solid horns, dub elements, and powerful political and spiritual messages. On the lighter side of things, “Don’t Worry” and “Tell Me” — a romantic piece that is as much pop as it is lovers rock — should go over well with anyone who mostly seeks out this sort of music when they’re looking to “vibe out” or “chill.”
“Mentality,” “Strength to Survive”