The Living Fire

The living fire - 2007

If you’re not yet familiar with Chuck Fenda’s “Gash Dem,” you really owe it to yourself to check out one of the best tunes of 2006. And what better place to do it than on Fenda’s eagerly anticipated album The Living Fire? It’s an especially great deal considering you also get a pair of other hits: his follow-up “Freedom of Speech” (featured on Biggest Reggae One-Drop Anthems 2006), which addresses the controversy surrounding the banning of his song from radio stations in Jamaica, and the tender duet “Coming Over,” featured on Strictly the Best 36. (All three have videos that are included on the CD as well.) Although it’s his vitriolic fire-and-brimstone DJ style that helped him rise into the limelight of the reggae scene after years of toiling in relative anonymity, Fenda shows off his soft side on more than one occasion, adapting nicely to the lovers style on “Coming Over,” performing a remarkably effective rock guitar ballad (!) with Tanya Stephens on “Child of the Universe,” and meditating to the Nyabinghi track “I’m Praying.” But who are we kidding? We want to hear the living fire! And does he ever deliver. In fact, I don’t think fire codes allow Chuck Fenda and Capleton to be in the same building without sprinklers and fire-retardant clothing handy. The Living Fire is a treat throughout for fans of modern roots reggae, but if you happen to have only a couple of minutes to listen to it in a store, fast-forward to track 7 and bask in the powerhouse threesome the environmentally conscious “Mother Earth,” the edgy ganja anthem “Gwaan Plant,” and the vengeful “Nah Laugh,” then try to resist buying it. Resistance is futile! Fenda’s energy is contagious, and his commitment to being “the Poor People’s Defender” comes across in the sincerity of his performance. Granted, his signature vocal twitter can get a bit annoying, but you’ll be too busy grooving to this triumphant album to care.