Better Days

Better Days - 2005

Chuck Fenda (AKA Chuck Fender) is a solid, if obscure, singjay in the vein of Anthony B. or Sizzla. In fact, if I were to describe his singing voice and the style of his music, I would say he sounds like a mix of exactly those two influences, perhaps with more of the former than the latter. In fact, this is the only real problem with Chuck and his album — it’s a bit too derivative to be very memorable. Frequently throughout the album you’ll find yourself thinking that Anthony B.’s had finer moments, and then you’ll remember that this isn’t Anthony B. This is a serviceable (and at times better than that) singjay album, but it doesn’t mark out much territory for itself that you haven’t visited before. That said, the album kicks off in fine style with the catchy but serious hook of “Ruff Out Deh” and then the slower, boisterous “Better Days.” These tracks establish Mr. Fenda as a charismatic singer with a strong social conscience, and give you reasonably high hopes for the rest of the material. Sadly, these hopes are not always met. Track 3, the very Sizzla-ish “Haffi Win,” is a bit generic and suffers from a weaker backing track than the two that preceded it. “No More Sufferin” is even more Sizzla-like (check out those high-pitched trills in the opening seconds), and marries a heartfelt, interesting hook to an overwrought production and a sluggish hip hop beat. “Serious Time” is rather tossed off, but “The Prayer” brings back fond memories of landmark albums like Black Woman & Child. It’s not quite that good, but it’s good enough. Most of this release is quality while rarely reaching the upper echelon of rootsy dancehall. A few tracks don’t live up to this mark, such as the weak ballads “Show Love” and “Oh My Lord” with their generic melodies and chord changes strummed in decidedly non-reggae acoustic guitar rhythms. But for the most part, Better Days is a decent album that hints that its maker might eventually do better still.