Rootspence – Natural Mystics – Album Review
Based out of Mozambique!
Our work has traveled far & wide across the globe to many places – but unless I’m seriously forgetting something here, this is the first time I can recall us finding our way there – and that’s always exciting to me. Of course, the opposite is equally true & just as amazing – welcome to our Canadian-based pages Rootspence! This cat’s got himself a brand-new record coming out in May this year called Natural Mystics – Reggae fans rejoice! Y’all don’t get enough representation in the music-scene out there, and hopefully through the sixteen cuts on the new Rootspence record, he’ll be able to help change all that.
It’s impossible for me to hide who I am after having written several thousand reviews here on our pages at this point – y’all know that aside from Country music and the Blues, Reggae is probably the toughest subject & style of music for me to personally examine, being just on the outside of my regular taste in tunes. That being said, you also know I always keep an open mind, and I’m always excited for a cross-cultural experience that can teach me something totally new about music from a place I’ve never been to – and this certainly qualifies in that respect. I found a lot on Natural Mystics well worth listening to.
On a musical level, Rootspence makes an immediate impression through the sunshine vibes pouring through the speakers as “Thank You Lord” begins – that’s the kind of inviting sound that’s pretty much guaranteed to get everyone onboard with checking out what’ll come next & cheering for this dude to succeed. What’s kind of impossible to know from culture to culture, is more what the priorities tend to be when it comes to making music – and even IF you were able to get a bead on that, you’d still be dealing with the natural diversity of artists and their own unique styles. To me, I hear “Thank You Lord” and think there’s still plenty of room for Rootspence to develop the tone of his vocals – but at the same time, I hear the performance and can’t imagine he’s remotely dissatisfied with it at all. He sounds remarkably confident, bold, and highly expressive – and to me, if that’s the case, then likely that right there is the priority – expression, realness, and humble honesty communicated through the vocals. Sometimes that means the occasional note or tone might sound a bit rougher than others – which is more than fine if you’ve got your mind set to what the experience will be like – we’re not necessarily talking about perfection here, so much as we’re talking about vibes that represent a perfect moment – you dig? Rootspence just tends to kind of go with the flow, and you’ll find that’s a trend on this record. The sentiment is beautiful though, “Thank You Lord” starts out this experience in a truly grateful way.
“No Man” felt like it got much closer to what the people & ears out there will readily accept, and puts out a highly accessible song that would definitely make a great candidate for a single & gateway into the new record by Rootspence. The piano melody that guides this cut is superb…the mix all around is bang-on and the results are compelling – “No Man” is definitely an example of Rootspence at his best in a variety of ways. Lyrics are on-point, and highly relevant for the right now from the man hooks of the message in the chorus, to its reference to Covid-19, and the insightful perspective that Rootspence clearly has in the way he views the world. He makes incredibly valid observations here, right up to & including the questioning we all share between us right now, wondering why on earth the people in power out there can’t come together to beat back the common enemy we all have right now in the pandemic. Solid cut from start to finish – “No Man” would continue to be one of my own favorites in the lineup of this record…every time I gave this album a re-spin, “No Man” remained fully impressive.
Love the guitars that start out “Train Has Gone” and the vibrant horns you’ll find in the mix. With each track, it’s felt like Rootspence has continued to flex his vocals in a multitude of expressive ways…some that will work for listeners out there, some that’ll probably have people raising an eyebrow or two along the way as well. What I really like about this guy is the commitment you’ll find, every single time – there’s no question that Rootspence puts everything he’s got into every tune he makes, and he’s always equipped with an insightful set of messages running through the lyrics of his songs as well. Ultimately, there’s a lot here to be found, and hooks that certainly catch the attention in the bright & lively chorus that “Train Has Gone” reveals. The rhythm of his vocal repetition works highly in the man’s favor here. Awesome drums to be found here as well – and throughout the record for that matter – there’s a ton of lively sound in the music of Rootspence, and the harmonies really shine through on “Train Has Gone.” All-in-all, it’s got one of the tighter vibes from start to finish & delivers a versatile sound people will dig.
Really impressed with the musicianship found throughout Natural Mystics on the whole. Like, listen to the drums on “Just Because” for example – not only is the beat 100% on-point & brings a ton of energy to this song, but the tone itself is spot-on as it could possibly be in yet another stand out performance. “Just Because” dives into the social awareness & humanitarian concepts so often associated with the Reggae genre, and sticks fairly close to the natural script the fan-base knows & loves. This is a great example of what I was getting at from the very beginning of this review – initially, we hear a track like “Thank You Lord” and the vocals can be a bit jarring in the contrast of the expressive tone combined with the smoothness in the music – but here on “Just Because,” that same aspect becomes this song’s true strengths. Here you find Rootspence practically pleading for change on the mic to the point where his voice nearly gives out on him in the process – but the effect is completely different as we listen…in this track, it’s a welcome sound, because it communicates the sense of urgency the words he’s written truly demands, and fully suits the song as a result of that. I’ll say this with certainty – you couldn’t listen to this record and not instantly recognize & connect with just how pure the man’s intentions truly are – Rootspence represents the best of all of us in my opinion; it’s more than clear this guy has a good heart.
“Who’s Gonna Raise?” is a highlight example of how Rootspence is a much, much better person than I’ll ever hope to be…I’ve never asked the main question this song asks in the chorus: “Who’s gonna raise our children?” Lord if I know! All I know for sure is that it ain’t gonna be me. All kidding aside, I actually felt like I got into this tune quite a bit and felt like it was a really strong & balanced performance from Rootspence overall. From the music to the microphone, this cut seems to have a genuine accessibility to it that might very well make the difference when it comes to finding Rootspence his audience around the world. The production on Natural Mystics tends to stand-out solidly for all the right reasons throughout the distance of this entire record, but maybe even more-so by just a slight percentage here – not enough for the everyday listener to notice the difference perhaps, but for the dedicated music-heads out there, you’ll hear the tightness achieved here from the lefts to the rights. Ultimately, “Who’s Gonna Raise?” asks some of the most important questions you’ll find in this lineup as Rootspence ponders the stability of the future to come, out loud while we listen. It’s as insightful as it is earnest – you can tell just from listening that this isn’t just a clever topic, this is Rootspence genuinely concerned and doing his level-best to get the rest of us considering something that we should likely all be thinking about in some way, shape, or form. I was kidding of course earlier in reference to me raising kids…or not raising them more specifically…I don’t have any personally – but Rootspence reminds us here that in a sense, we ALL have kids, because whether they’re ours or not, they’re the future of the tomorrows we’ll be around for, and are responsible for right now. It’s about what kind of world we wanna live in.
I haven’t heard a single questionable moment when it comes to any of the music on this record, and the impeccable precision & flawlessness of the instrumentation continues to be a major strength on Natural Mystics as “Chant Down Babylon” takes us nearly to the halfway point of the album. Rootspence puts a bit of jazz into his vocals here, loosening up the vibe in the verses, and locking in on his boldness during the chorus to drive the points he’s making home. Reggae is forever gonna be at odds with itself if you ask me…it almost always features the juxtaposition of what’s arguably the world’s most inviting style of sound & vibes, and then lays the heavy on ya through the words & meaning you’ll find attached to it all. “Chant Down Babylon” had me feeling that a little bit here…I like what I hear – I’m just surprised by the genre as a whole sometimes…you’d think it would make a bit more time for straight-up good times, as opposed to attempting to teach as often as it does while it entertains in the same experience, you feel me? Like it always seems to make sense in Rock music & Rap for some reason…there’s an aggression that tends to come with the message that seems to make it belong together; with Reggae I suppose I always expect to hear something closer to the words of “Thank You Lord” than I do social issues, but that’s rarely ever the case. The facts are the facts – Reggae has always been one of the more serious genres out there when it comes to the lyrical aspect – it’s the friendly sound that tricks our minds into thinking it’s always about sunshine & good times. “Chant Down Babylon” is a solid example of how the genre has always classically entwined important social messages with the upbeat music you’ll find.
“You cannot buy love in a supermarket” was a line I really liked in “What You Give” – Rootspence certainly ain’t wrong about that, and as far as these values-based tunes go on Natural Mystics, lyrically I felt like this was one of the strongest cuts on the record for sure. It’s the kind of cut that holds the mirror back up to each of us for the world to see its reflection and consider how we treat other people – “What you give is what you get” – and that’s quite true of the people on this planet as far as I can tell. Love the guitars on this tune as well and the innovative contributions to the music you’ll find surrounding them…Rootspence definitely comes fully equipped with the gift to entertain ya in a variety of ways. A strong performance from the man on the mic here and a highly memorable tune all-around – I like his vocals when he’s singing the words straight-up, and I like Rootspence just as much or even more when he loosens up in spots like around the 1:15 area, where he kicks it avant-garde for a moment too. “Don’t fool yourself” – Rootspence is dispensing wisdom you should know by heart already, but just in case you missed that all-important lesson on how to REALLY be human, and like, you know, CARE about things on this planet we share together – “What You Give” details what your soul’s been missing.
So…yeah…something like “Illusion” would be closer to how I felt at the beginning of this record in listening to “Thank You Lord” and hearing Rootspence seem to stretch just a bit beyond the natural tone he’s got, almost straining himself through the chorus at the very start of the song. Which almost makes it even stranger in the sense that, he’ll go on to drop one of his smoothest & perfect performances as he strolls through the verses of this very same track right afterwards. A bit of push/pull in the performance of this cut when it comes to its overall appeal…I can hear the potential, I’m just not sure it reached it in-full. From what I can tell online, it looks like Rootspence has been releasing records since roughly about 2018 if the timeline on Spotify is correct…and naturally, any artist or band this early on in their career are still going to show opportunities to evolve, improve, refine, and expand their capabilities & sound. “Illusion” still has many solid qualities that keep it engaging, but does expose a few of those potential spots where Rootspence will be able to tighten-up the vocals in the future to ensure his best gets out.
Like I always tell ya…when things are right, they’re right, and you can always hear it. When you hear how well the vibes of a song like “You & I” seem to suit Rootspence…this is what you want a whole lot more of. Unlike many of my peers, I’ve always believed it’s just as important to point out spots of potential improvement or opportunities for evolution when I listen to a record, because then you know I actually mean what I say when I’m telling something they got it right as well. “You & I” felt like one of the most impressive cuts on Natural Mystics, and completely suited the strengths of Rootspence’s expressive vocal style. It still features that push/pull between the ultra-friendly vibes and inviting style of its main star combined with a layer of deeper meaning found within the lyricism, but the combination works extremely well with this more upbeat design. All-around, I’d put this right up there with my favorites on the album – “You & I” always stood out to me every time it came on as I repeated my way through Natural Mystics – the hooks Rootspence has designed in the chorus are certainly among the most memorable you’ll find, and he hits up the avant-garde vocalizations he does so well once again in the mix here too along the way. Dude doesn’t even need WORDS when he wants to stand out – love it! Great tone & expression in his voice, the whole vibe is as endearing as it is refreshing – “You & I” would be another cut I’d be taking a close look at as a potential single to put out there in advance of the album.
“Your Love” would also be another huge strength in the lineup of this set-list, and definitely one of my favorite cuts on Natural Mystics personally. You really do notice the sincerity & passion that Rootspence sings with every time, on every song regardless of the results…whether or not you feel the tone is in-line or it isn’t doesn’t really factor into that equation – what we hear has an endearing quality to it, because he always sings straight from the heart, and that truly does matter. “Your Love” is a solid example of how Rootspence’s expressive style can be a complete asset to him, it’s a bit downbeat as a song, but this vibe fits really well. When the piano shows up, I always felt like it really contributed to some of the best you’d find from Rootspence on this record, and “Your Love” makes fantastic use of it. There are a couple of cuts on Natural Mystics that seem to explore a much more laidback energy when it comes to the performance…”Your Love” and “Victory” in particular – but this first example, is where you’ll find that the results come out in Rootspence’s favor. “Victory” will rock different themes at a similarly sleepy pace, but not quite reach the same degree of specialness that “Your Love” seems to capture here.
“Mohamed Aly” is one of the friendliest cuts you’re gonna hear this year, that’s for sure. This is much closer to what I was getting at earlier – if Reggae just remained in a happier gear like this all the time, I think there’d be a chance of the style itself making much more logical sense to those that don’t quite ‘get it’ – like me. To me, this is the pairing of music & message that works perfectly to the advantage of the entire design of the sound all-around – “Mohamed Aly” is a tributary song, and it SOUNDS like good times too! We don’t have to worry about society and its many pitfalls for a moment here…right in the sweet spot of the record with Rootspence on a fairly significant roll through the main strengths of the album in the last several tunes, “Mohamed Aly” keeps that streak going in the right direction. I’m never gonna lie to ya and say it’s my favorite vocal performance from Rootspence here – but I did think it actually fit this song pretty well. Some of those vocal tones are unquestionably strained; and the rule is pretty simple & straightforward in that regard – if it’s straining you, it’s likely straining us as listeners as well – but in the case of “Mohamed Aly” and its friendly sentiment, it’s all so much easier to accept. In fact, I pretty much welcomed it here on this side of the screens & speakers – there’s an incredible dose of the natural personality & charm of Rootspence that comes shining through this song unlike any other. I can’t guarantee everyone else out there will hear this one the way I do personally…but I certainly enjoyed it…in the end, sincerity, passion, and real personality lead Rootspence to heartfelt results here.
The thing is…I have heard records like this before in the sense that, I can easily identify an artist that truly just wants to sing & communicate – and that’s really who Rootspence is fundamentally at the end of the day…the music is almost a secondary aspect in that regard. And I’m truly sensitive to that; empathetic as well – I know there have been ups & downs along the way that I’ve pointed out here in this review when it comes to his tone – but I’ve also backed him up every step of the way for the passion he puts in too. I can hear the high desire he has to sing – and like I told ya earlier, pass or fail, or whatever you might think, he sings from the heart, and that matters; it’s what takes a questionable tone and makes it an endearing one we still end up cheering for…because you know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the music Rootspence is making, truly means something to him. “Victory” probably rides the line of what’s accessible with a little less stability…but without the more lively combination of sound like we heard on “Mohamed Aly” just prior for example, this next cut seems to come out a bit more lethargic and somewhat drained of the energy he needs to get his best into the microphone here. The melancholic vibe that runs through “Victory” almost seems to be counterintuitive to what the song is trying to communicate, making it one of the stranger combinations on this record overall. Think of it this way Rootspence…you’re going for “Victory” here…nearly a synonym for celebration in so many ways – but it’s very hard to conceptualize that in the way this cut comes out, with it lacking that spark of what we’d associate with “Victory” and the triumph it would inherently imply. So…again…I’m more than familiar with the natural juxtaposition between the friendly sound of Reggae and the contrasting lyricism we find so often – but without the friendly part in the music, a set of inspired lyrics like you’ll find on “Victory” almost seems like it missed the opportunity it could have had to celebrate a big WIN.
No significant complaints from me about “Sow Love” – this tune’s got the right intentions, excellent lyrics, and a stellar performance from the main star of the show on the microphone with one of his best – Rootspence sounds remarkably well-suited to the way he sings this tune. You see folks? I always give credit where it’s due whenever I can – and when I know what you’re capable of, I simply seek to hold ya to that standard. When you hear the way Rootspence sings “Sow Love” with such impressive energy, expression, and tone COMBINED…then you start to understand why I’ve pointed out other spots along the way beforehand. “Sow Love” is a highlight example of the man at his finest – and that’s the standard I wanna hear him hitting as consistently as possible, in addition to the standard he should be seeking out himself. The man’s got a ton of love in his heart though…you can feel that in these songs no matter what the main theme or subject may be – “Sow Love” just makes it a lot more direct, but ultimately his good nature and pure intentions come through as the most resounding quality in the music of Rootspence. From the essential background vocals to the ever-impressive musicianship & clever solo you’ll find in the mix here along the way – “Sow Love” is undoubtedly a huge highlight for all.
There we go! You see Reggae music – I told ya you could do it – “Smile” and celebrate and leave all the worries behind for a second…like, it really ain’t that hard! Then of course, being a music critic & all, I naturally get exactly what I was looking for and almost want the opposite – “Smile” isn’t JUST a happy song built for good times, it’s like…practically made of cotton candy and fluffy clouds y’all – it’s just about THE happiest tune & most well-intentioned cut you’re likely to experience this year. VIBRANT sound you couldn’t possibly miss comes slappin’ happily outta your speakers as this song’s wonderful sentiment continues to strengthen its fantastic resolve through the vocals & lyrics to follow. Whenever Rootspence lightens-up the vibe, the dude brightens up the room as a result – and when he wants to turn on the charm like he does on “Smile,” it’s highly effective in creating a remarkably endearing sound. Excellent use of harmonies and background vocals, strong lead performance from the main man himself, and music designed to be heard – it’s a bit edgier when it comes to the production perhaps, but I had no issues with it…it’s that drumbeat that comes through with such strength that can leave it feeling a bit uneven in that sense, but I suspect that dialing it back further would also take away some of the magic.
As I’ve said many times throughout these pages of ours, a sixteen-song record is essentially always asking for a bit of trouble…there are less than zero albums out there with a perfect sixteen cuts that I can think of. As musicians & artists, it’s extremely tough to be as objective as we truly need to examine what does & doesn’t work – we’re all too close to the material we create, and rightly so. That leaves people like myself out there to fill the gaps though…I’m the guy that has to tell people like Rootspence that cutting a record down to ten or twelve tunes is likely going to yield him a far better response in the end when it comes to the masses. Songs like “Victory” where we’re more on the fence, or tracks like “Possession” that drift well wide of the mark…these would be easy targets to identify as B-sides in the context of this particular record, or even tunes you’d just want to release as singles, or on a different record. Like I said, we make music, we wanna put it ALL out at once…but that’s not always gonna be the best strategy, or make the most resounding impact with listening ears out there – bigger isn’t always better, you dig? “Possession” definitely finds itself over the red-line when it comes to the production as well…I’m not saying abandon the idea entirely, there’s still a song here – but this one needs a real polish.
A lot of this comes down to objectivity and being real with himself…Rootspence is just like the rest of us, he knows when he’s getting it right, and when he’s drifted away from what he’s looking for – he just needs to now stand up for the material he’s creating and make sure that he’s getting his best out of it. There is no better example of exactly what I’m talking about than you’ll find at the very end of this record on “Come With Me” – which is actually one of my personal favorites, even though it still sounds like it’s got a ways to go to reaching its full potential still. But listen to the last twenty seconds and you’ll understand what I’ve been saying from the get-go here in this review today – at about 2:22 you’ll hear what’s probably THE strongest moment of all moments you’ll hear from Rootspence on the microphone – and then only ten seconds later, attempts the same thing at about less-than 50% of the former results when it comes to the strength in his tone. But again…I don’t need to tell him that – he’s heard it, and he already knows…the concern is that he’s gambling with accessibility in moments like this, and he clearly doesn’t need to when another go-around in the studio or run-though of the song would have entirely fixed that right up. These are choices he’s made throughout the bulk of the sixteen tunes on Natural Mystics, which fully confirms he’s gifted when it comes to expressive communication, but shows there’s still plenty of room to evolve even more when it comes to the final results and the mix he’s seeking out on his own vocals. But that’s what it’s all about folks, and always should be – there’s always room to grow – it’s when that stops we should be concerned, not before. Rootspence is still at the earliest stages of a full-length career, and he’s got more desire to make music than most artists you’ll ever run into. There’s no doubt that he’s got a real charm to him that makes you wanna be right in this guy’s corner…and I really dig that too. “Come With Me” sounds like a real hint towards where he could take his music in the future, and I’d fully recommend exploring the vast majority of what works here in the ideas & sound of this last track – because you can absolutely hear he’s onto something really special at the end of this record, and where he could take this sound you’ll find in this final tune could very well be the key in what takes this international artist straight to the top in the future to come. Stay tuned!
Natural Mystics arrives this May – until then, be sure to check out what else Rootspence has going on at the official Spotify page right here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/4iOoJnx5nuWNiRDkpU1802
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