“Lily of da Valley” – Jesse Royal

Jesse Royal

Lily of da Valley

Easy Star Records

Jesse Royal is one of the hot rising stars in Jamaica’s modern reggae scene. In his short career, he’s already had a #1 single and achieved industry respect for his powerful voice, fantastic hooks and strong songwriting.

He follows in the tradition of other modern day Jamaican reggae stars such as Chronixx, Protoje and Jah9 who have dug deep into their cultural roots whilst maintaining a very modern feel. Innovation and creativity abound in this modern new-wave reggae and Jesse Royal is a strong part of this movement.

“Lily of da Valley” is his first full-length album, and it’s pure fire. He comes out swinging with the opening track “400 Years”. It’s a hard-hitting social critique about injustice and the struggle of minorities to overcome their history. Like most of the album, it’s a thoroughly modern blend of classic roots-rock reggae with a contemporary urban feel.

The album features “Modern Day Judas”, which rocked the top of the charts in 2013 as his first big single. It’s got a catchy chorus, chilled out beat and some nice keyboard hooks. The song addresses themes of loyalty and honesty in dealing with friends and critics.

Another one of my favorites on here is “Always Be Around”. It has a great melodic feel, and one of those hooks that just gets stuck in your head on repeat: “I would never let you down / Always be around”. Again, it features heavy roots-reggae elements with threads of dub and electronic sound effects weaved throughout.

“Lily of da Valley” also features the mandatory herb-praising track with “Roll Me Something Good”. It’s an upbeat number with a light feel and an extremely catchy chorus repeating “The chalice have to bubble all night”. When I saw him in concert this winter he had the audience doing a call and response with it, with thousands of people singing it back to him.

I am thoroughly impressed with this album. It has dance numbers and ballads, all punctuated by his incredible singing voice and knack for putting together a great hook. The production is amazing, and every song front to back feels like it belongs. Even if you aren’t a reggae fan, you can still find a lot of enjoyment from listening to this great work.

Tom Matthew

Two Ton Music