Soothsayers - We're Not Leaving/ I'll Never Leave Dub - Singles - Reviews - Soundblab

Soothsayers - We're Not Leaving/ I'll Never Leave Dub

by Charly Richardson Rating:9 Release Date:2011-08-01

Soothsayers are a Brixton-based outfit who mix up roots-reggae and dub with afrobeat. Their last album Tangled Roots generated widespread critical acclaim, and this single, 'We're Not Leaving', is bound to as well. It was recorded at Ironworks in Brighton (Princy Fatty's studio) and the studio of Bunny 'Striker' Lee in Kingston, Jamaica; and has been self-released through their Red Earth Music on 7in vinyl and digital download (on August 15).

The result - as might be expected - is an authentic roots-reggae experience with a modern UK flavour. After a short intro, 'We're Not Leaving' dives straight into a sweet groove built out of a 'bubbling' single-string guitar line, jazzy piano fills, deep bass and a crisp skank. The melody of the verse isn't exactly weak, but it's not until the soaring, majestic chorus that the goosebumps really come out. Gorgeous three-part vocal harmonies carry the simply evocative line: "We're not leaving, we call this place our home, and we like it here, there's nowhere else to go".

Indeed, it is the lyrics of the song which make it so anthemic. They are emotionally engaging yet broad enough to be universally appealing. The themes of displacement and community could be speaking about gentrification, deportation or otherwise; and have a timeless appeal relevant for multiple peoples or places. All this is complimented by tight work from the rhythm section and simple yet catchy horn lines. These guys know how to play reggae properly. There is a slight dip in energy midway through and it wouldn't have missed having a minute shaved off, but if you are not singing along with a massive grin by the fade-out, well, then you have no soul.

And then comes the b-side 'I'll Never Leave Dub', a sublime remix by UK-based Manasseh. I'm disappointed that I haven't heard of Manasseh before, because he is a genius. He takes us back to the classic minimalist dub techniques of late 1970s Jamaica, yet it feels fresh and relevant for 2011: horns suddenly jump out, pianos echo around, and the bass and drums grind steadily underneath. King Tubby would be proud.

The vocals Manasseh manipulates and brings in and out are not that of Soothsayer's Robin Hopcraft (who provides lead vocals on the previous track), but of reggae-veteran Cornell Campbell. Having previously worked with Johnny Clarke and Michael Prophet, this is a nice addition to Soothsayers' impressive track-record with Jamaican legends. Campbell's soaring falsetto still impresses, and he gives a powerful Rastafarian twist to the theme: "No I will never, never ever leave my home, and go to Babylon, and suffer in-a Rome". Unfortunately, his other lyrical contributions aren't quite as inspired, and you can't helping feeling this might be why his version was used for the dub.

In late September however, the fully extended version of Campbell's take will be released (and will probably prove me wrong), along with versions by rising roots sensation Lutan Fyah and prolific legend Earl 16. Based on the strength of this single, it will definitely be one to look out for. 'Version' albums only work with a massive original track as a starting point, and Soothsayers have produced just that. One of the strongest UK -or indeed Jamaican - roots-reggae singles for years.

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