Seven piece U.S. reggae band SOJA’s fourth album Strength to Survive was released in January this year, but has recently got a European release courtesy of VP Records with no less than six bonus tracks – four acoustic versions and two new versions of Everything Changes, one with French singer Balik from Danakil and one with German singjay Gentleman.
SOJA was formed in 1997 and dropped their debut album three years later. Singer, guitarist and front man Jacob Hemphill has since the beginning of the band’s endeavors strived to write serious lyrics with messages of unity, universal love and the many challenges the human race faces.
As the son of a former IMF employee Jacob Hemphill has probably learnt a thing or two about politics and economics, and now he’s on a mission to save humanity and this planet with music and lyrics rather than policies and legislative initiatives.
On Strength to Survive SOJA has together with producer John Alagia – responsible for several albums with Dave Matthews Band – managed to put a glossy wrap around the somber lyrics consisting of beautiful, bright and melancholic melodies and memorable hooks.
Jacob Hemphill is a talented songwriter with a singing style sometimes reminiscent of Bob Marley, nowadays minus the patois accent. His nasal singing, sometimes bedroom-like whispering, flows nicely over the easy skanking reggae grooves comparable to artists such as Bruno Mars or Jason Mraz.
Over the years SOJA have built-up a diehard fan base and have headlined large theaters in more than 15 countries around the world. Certainly an impressive accomplishment for a band that sings about saving the environment and their hopes about the world coming together as one.
I have a hunch that Jacob Hemphill’s pretty boy looks and charisma might be the secret ingredient in the SOJA formula for success apart from them being able to write pop songs with a message.