Tag Archives: The Strong One

Etana keeps rising

disc-3241-etana-i-riseOn February 25 last year I wrote that Etana’s at the time recently released album Better Tomorrow included her finest work yet. And I’m happy to say that she keeps rising for every album and that she has yet again exceeded expectations and that she continues to raise bar.

Etana has come a long way since her acclaimed debut album The Strong One, released in 2008. She has always had a stellar voice and has often been compared to U.S. neo soul singers like Alicia Keys and India.Arie. And Etana certainly has a truly soulful voice custom-made for slick ballads, but she’s equally at ease with harder and more roots-oriented material. That’s a vein that she has started to explore more and more in recent years. She has gone from being a neo-soul diva to a strong force in the ongoing roots reggae revival in Jamaica.

On her brand new fourth album I Rise she continues to work with one dedicated producer. On Better Tomorrow it was Shane C. Brown, and on I Rise it’s no other than Clive Hunt. A real veteran and by Etana described as ”the great, great, the god father of reggae, super talented, creative, rough, bad, but also very kind at the same time, Clive Hunt”.

He has made remarkable music for four decades working with the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Abyssinians, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Grace Jones and a truckload of others. Onboard is also a host of Jamaica’s finest musicians, including himself along with Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare and Dean Fraser.

Etana has a vocal strength and melodic power that is almost unique in contemporary reggae, and she’s today Jamaica’s leading female vocalist with her blend of infectious love ballads and harsh roots anthems.

Clive Hunt has created a versatile, yet consistent, set with rich arrangements and multi-layered grooves. The discofied reggae beat on the spiritual Emmancipation (Spoken Soul 11) is one of the most memorable moments. Another is On My Way, with its militant intro that makes me want to salute the talented forces behind this excellent album.

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Record reviews

Etana offers a mixed bag on Free Expressions

On Etana’s sophomore album Free Expressions she shows a more mature side of herself. She has managed to pen 12 of the 14 tunes and has also collaborated with a variety of producers, including lovers rock specialist Kemar “Flava” McGregor and Curtis Lynch, a producer that shows a new, more melodic side of himself this time.

Free Expressions includes several previously released tunes, such as Mockingbird, Happy Heart, August Town, Heart Broken and I Know You Love Me. And those are some of the best tunes. Other highlights include the gospel-tinged I Got You produced by talented duo Alborosie & Specialist, and War, with an opening guitar hook very similar to Max Romeo’s classic Chase the Devil. On War Etana also delivers with furious energy.

Sadly, there are some dull moments too. It’s tough to cope with My Name Is – a song that certainly has hit potential, but not my kind of music with its synthesizer effects similar to Jon & Vangelis I’ll Find My Way Home and a chorus that echoes from It’s Gonna Be Me by 90’s boy band ‘N Sync.

I’m not over excited about the intense and schizophrenic Venting either. It’s just too much instruments and vocals that fight for my attention.

The album is a fusion of reggae, lovers rock, pop and neo-soul and Etana’s singing sometimes resembles the voice of Alicia Keys. If you like your reggae soul styled and heavenly melodic – then this is a must have.

Free Expressions hit the shelves on February 8.

2 Comments

Filed under Record reviews

Etana expresses herself freely

Reggae singer and songwriter Etana is set to drop her sophomore album Free Expressions in early February. The album has been preceded by strong singles such as Mockingbird, August Town and Heart Broken. Reggaemani got a chat with her from her home island of Jamaica.

Etana started her musical career in female vocal group Gift in 2000. But she soon left the outfit because she didn’t like the widespread stereotyping of female artists.  Now she is doing music on her own terms instead.

“It’s a major difference now when I can decide everything for myself. I can do things my way and record what I want. I’m being able to express myself. It’s a natural vibe, natural energy”, says Etana on the phone from Jamaica.

Some years after she had left the group a friend introduced her to singer Richie Spice’s former management Fifth Element Records and she agreed to follow him on tour as a backup vocalist.

The label obviously recognized her huge talent and managed to persuade her to record the single Wrong Address, a single that was rewarded with heavy radio rotation and also climbed to number 1 on several Jamaican charts.

In 2008 she dropped her debut album The Strong One to wide critical acclaim, partly due to hit songs such as I’m Not Afraid on Kemar “Flava” McGregor’s wicked Rub-a-Dub riddim and Alborosie duet Blessings.

On her new album Free Expressions she has continued working with Flava McGregor and Alborosie. But she has also invited UK master producer Curtis Lynch for some tough tunes.

“The label recommended me to work with Curtis Lynch, so he flew to Jamaica and we met at Gussie Clarke’s studio. The chemistry was great and all the songs came out just like that. I think the first song we recorded was Move On, then Heart Broken and last August Town. It was a good connection”, says Etana.

She says that the new album was produced a little differently from the first. Most of the sessions were less planned which has given the album more of a free vibe. On Free Expressions Etana has also written most of the material herself, something that might also have had an effect on the different vibe during recording.

 “It feels good to do most things by myself and VP never gives me a hard time production wise or video wise. I’m very excited that I’ve come up with an entire album”.

She explains that the new album is more reggae compared to The Strong One and that the debut was more of an introduction to her music.

Free Expressions hit the streets on February 8th and then she will go on tour to the U.S. and Europe.

“I’ll probably start touring in America and then spend much time in Europe and the UK”, she says and reveals her hopes on Free Expressions:

“I hope it will take me to the next level and that it will make me continue to grow. Everything is possible and you never know where it’s going to go”.

2 Comments

Filed under Interviews