The Courtney John Project • Future • Fiwi Music • Release Date: April 30, 2013
The Courtney John Project: Forward to the Future
Few people (artists included) would argue against the notion that music should always be refreshing, vibrant, and forward-thinking. The ‘future’ should ALWAYS be on the minds of artists, particularly given how trends easily come and go. Unfortunately, agreeing to the importance of music in respect to those three adjectives is not the same as the music itself embodying them. Being innovative and fresh in 2013 is no easy task, given how much innovation in music has came and passed up until this point. But as they say, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’.
While many artists struggle with this unique form of ‘writers block’ (even in the release of a new project), The Courtney John Project seem to have it mastered to a science, creating their own new style called ‘Rootstronic’. Rootstronic – what is that you ask? It is described as a mix between the music from Kingston, Jamaica (reggae), Euro-electronica, and “100% provocative”. If the unique description alone isn’t enough to excite, you’ll be thrilled when you partake of the ‘Rootstronic’ listening experience itself. This talented trio’s album Future arrives April 30, 2013, via Fiwi Music and it is worthy of the hype.
Who are The Courtney John Project? A talented group of musicians comprised of Jamaican Courtney John, talented producer The Wizard (who more than proves her ability to ‘stitch up’ a track), and ASCAP songwriter of the year Steven “Lenky” Marsden (co-wrote Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” from the Grammy-winning 2002 album Dutty Rock). Can you say talent? More impressive than the resumés themselves is how well the three musicians work together collaboratively to create an album that can’t be pigeonholed as only one genre. Sure, critics and audiences attempt to constrain this album as reggae for lack of a better label with the generalizations ‘we must call it something’, but it transcends and proves to be much more than that. Future, 10 tracks deep, benefits from its freedom, which is in place from start to finish.
Future: The Tracks (Review)
“Black Cinderella” kicks things off exceptionally. The typical reggae cues are in place, but they work in tandem with a rich palette of sounds and effects. Courtney John’s lead vocals are über expressive, attuned to the style and the energy. The Wizard’s touch permeates throughout the production, with elements of dub-step and electronic music fusing with the Island sounds. And where would this crowning achievement be without Lenky’s piano? That’s rhetorical.
“Give You Love” should have an uphill climb after the brilliance of “Black Cinderella”. That doesn’t prove to be the case as consistency and
‘freshness’ shines upon the infectious sophomore cut. The production is both manic and spastic. Both adjectives should condemn the results, but instead they are both a compliment and a testament to the style being created – the production is ‘fire’! “Soul of A Man” continues the Rootstronic style in all its glory, featuring plenty of space for the instrumental ideas to shine. With a minimal amount of lyrics vocals, the masterful soundscape is given just due.
“Nothing Free” possesses clings to the traditional reggae sound, but not without a ‘foot in the door’ stepping towards the future. There is very little to criticize. John’s vocals get a bit lost in the production work, if you want to truly nitpick. Even so, the key “la la la la la” are always decipherable and most important. “Very Special” is true to its title, providing a contrast in the form of a ballad. Courtney John’s vocals are tender and beautiful, showing off a different side. “Rain Like Gold” is an instant hit, grabbing one’s attention from the first note. “Rain is gonna come, it’s gonna fall like gold / straight from the heaven and its good for the soul / fall rain, fall on me…,” John sings with such sincerity.
“Gonna Be Alright” keeps things short and sweet. Packing a punch under three minutes, the closing harmonized “It’s gonna be alright” is a key moment showing off considerable musicianship. On “Jungle Pickney”, the assortment of musical ideas run rampant, continuing to spoil the ear. The penultimate “Exploria” revisits “Rain Like Gold”, giving it an extended, even more epic treatment. The addition and prominence of the organ adds even more soul and emotion. The revisit of choice on the closing “Transistor Symphony” is “Nothing For Free”, in which the neutral syllable “la la la la la” plays a key role. Both “Exploria” and “Transistor Symphony” are unconcerned with duration, stretching out ideas with freely and creatively.
How good is Future? Across its 10 tracks, totaling a tight 40 minutes, The Courtney John Project get it right. There is no filler and truly few qualms. If the ‘eye-test’ is the above-mentioned adjectives (refreshing, vibrant, and forward-thinking), The Courtney John Project and the album Future accomplished that feat on first track “Black Cinderella”. Musicians and non-musicians alike who are looking for new music, The Courtney John Project certainly fits the bill exceptionally.
Favorites: “Black Cinderella”, “Give You Love”, “Very Special”, “Rain Like Gold”