Tough Life

Tough Life - 2005

There’s nothing like a talented singjay to renew your faith in modern reggae music, and Junior Kelly is made to order in that department. His latest finds him continuing to develop his signature style, a roots-oriented yet sonically modern mix of cultural and lovers elements. The album opens powerfully with the energetically sung title track, and although “Blaze” then indicates an unfortunate flirtation with Bobo Dread “fiyah” rhetoric, he quickly steps back onto more solid ground, admonishing his own brethren on “Rasta Should Be Deeper” and showing off his considerable vocal prowess on “Receive.”

The album’s finest moment comes on a gorgeous combination track, a DJ cut of J.C. Lodge’s “Somebody Loves You,” here titled “Love You Like That.” It’s hard to say which is more thrilling about that song — Kelly’s own fully committed performance or Lodge’s seemingly ageless voice. “Not I” and the unusually rockish “Youths Dem Nah Cool” are also solid winners, as is the jazzy and funky “Jam for a While.” Only the lackluster lovers number “The More I See Her” fails to impress. Highly recommended.