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Stony Hill *
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  • Even though it took over a decade for Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley to follow up his breakthrough 2005 album, Welcome to Jamrock, he wasn't resting on his laurels. He kept up a steady pace of guest appearances on albums by people like Gwen Stefani and Jay-Z, recorded a single with Skrillex, and made an album with Nas, 2010's Distant Relatives. In between these activities and a full slate of live performances, Marley was also working on what became 2017's Stony Hill album. Largely eschewing the R&B and rap influences of Welcome to Jamrock, not to mention the high-profile guests, the album sees Marley digging deep into various aspects of modern reggae with only the help of his brother Stephen (and Bounty Killer's son Major Myjah on one track). The focus is directed on Jr. Gong and his voice shines like a diamond, whether he's toasting like he's using up his last breaths ("R.O.A.R."), rapping smooth as silk ("Grown & Sexy"), testifying like his father ("The Struggle Discontinues"), or grooving a little on a disco-reggae hybrid ("Living It Up"). He sounds best when he's pushing hard, coming off tough and ready on high-impact tracks like "Here We Go" and "Caution." Those are the moments when the album truly comes to life, though rootsy songs like "Everybody Wants to Be Somebody" have all the woody, heavy vibes of the best '70s reggae and Marley sings them exceedingly well. It's hard to follow up the kind of record that comes once in a lifetime and Marley acquits himself well, turning in a strong modern reggae album that's informed by R&B and rap, but is very much its own thing. ~ Tim Sendra
Professional Reviews
Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "His first solo album in a decade is an inspiring 18-track collection, flexing authority on roots jams and dancehall bangers, political meditations and come-ons..."
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