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Collectively Roots: Buddha Council – True Love

Not long after becoming friendly with Rootfire founder Seth Herman several years ago, he introduced me to the music of the Virginia-based collective, Buddha Council.

There are some bands that don’t move you upon first hearing them, but then after further listening and/or seeing them perform, their music really grows on you. That was not the case with Buddha Council.

With the very first stream of their sophomore studio LP, Consider This, their sound immediately captivated me. Following that up with their self-titled debut cemented my admiration and excitement for this obviously talented group.  

Comprised of an accomplished lineup of players from two bands within the mid-Atlantic reggae community, Bimini Rd. and Session Rockers, Buddha Council seamlessly blends stylistic elements to create original modern roots music with a classic Jamaican feel.

Today Buddha Council releases their third studio album of original music, True Love. Continuing along a similar path, True Love presents ten upbeat tracks, expertly touching upon a mix of reggae from roots to rock steady to ska. Brass accents and backing harmonies embellish the alluring singing of Jon Quan, which varies from suave crooning to patois-inflected singjaying. To this listener, Quan’s voice frequently invokes the spirit of the late Dennis Brown, “The Crown Prince of Reggae,” while at other times it bears a resemblance to Dr. Ring Ding.

Lyrically, True Love offers political commentary and anti-establishment sentiments, woven with calls for solidarity as well as romantic fare. In “President (Wyclef Jean),” Quan sings, “It’s a shame just because of color, yuh gonna run come and kill my brother.” The pre-chorus of “Heartbreaker” laments “I gave you all my love and all my time, but you could never make me your only one.”

Also worth noting, the album contains several brief interludes, created by drummer Rhett Walton, which are meant as a sort of “audio aperitif,” according to band manager and co-album producer Travis Mansell.  

To celebrate this release, Rootfire highlights the track, “Against the Wall,” which kicks off the album. The song ignites with a blast of falsetto vocalizing before lurching into a deep and steady roots riddim. Flourishes of organ compliment an infectious chorus while a brief guitar solo adds some psychedelic texture. The continued presence of  the falsettos throughout creates a likeness to Kevin Kinsella-era John Brown’s Body.  

In sum, True Love, offers an array of well-crafted, polished songs that speak to a group of seasoned reggae performers who know what they are doing and love doing it. It is sure to please devotees of traditional reggae and progressive roots alike.

Pick up your copy of Buddha Council’s latest release True Love.

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Ever since becoming deeply moved and then essentially obsessed with reggae music as a teenager, Dave has always strove to learn as much as possible about the history and culture of reggae music, Jamaica and Rastafari, the ideology and lifestyle intertwined with reggae. 

Over the years, he has interviewed many personalities throughout the reggae world including Ziggy Marley, Burning Spear, Lucky Dube, Bradley Nowell and many artists in the progressive roots scene.

Dave has also written and published a novel, “The Cosmic Burrito,” a tale of two friends who drive across the USA in search of the ultimate burrito. He plays ice hockey weekly for a recreational team he founded and manages, Team Rasta.

Reggae music has filled his life with a richness for which he will forever be grateful, and he gives thanks to musicians far and wide, past and present, whether they perform roots, dub, dancehall, skinhead, rocksteady or ska, whether their tools are analog or digital, as well as the producers, promoters, soundsystems, selectors and the reggae massive at large who comprise the international reggae community.

You can follow Dave on Instagram at @rootsdude and Twitter at @ElCosmicBurrito.

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