Not many people would associate upstate New York with the musical genres of roots and reggae but the musical collective 10 Ft Ganja Plant has been successfully cultivating them there with love and care since 1999. Ten albums and several seven-inches later 10 Ft Ganja Plant has become one of the finest reggae bands of the modern era.
But it would seem the first rule about 10 Ft Ganja Plant is don’t talk about 10 Ft Ganja Plant as the band’s musical messages of truth, love, unity and disclosure don’t extend to themselves, the group’s ever-changing line-up being shrouded in mystery. Likewise the identities of the abundant special guests that litter their back-catalogue are as top secret as a David Bowie recording session gagging order. But perhaps this mystery is part of the appeal as it focuses attention on the music at hand and the messages within and not its creators or players.
‘Skycatcher’ lovingly recreates the classic Jamaican sound with reverberating snare snaps and pulsating dub basslines set against shanking guitars and wah-wah motifs. Lyrically it ploughs the well-worn terrain of fighting the powers that be, the dangers and delectableness of the female form, and of course spliffing up and praising Jah.
Despite this ‘Skycatcher’ is far from mundane, capturing the spirit of the music and perfectly bringing joy-fuelled falsetto to such sorrowful refrains as “what is the state of man?/Suffering” on State Of Man, and to hell with the consequences of lustfulness – “I don’t care if I’m not the only one” – throughout Sometimes We Play. Lead singer Jay Champany plays the political lion on Hypocrites In Town calling out politicians, exclaiming “don’t let it be too late to change your ways.”
The album also contains a variety of instrumentals which further illustrate the capabilities of 10 Ft Ganja Plant. Sounding Zone mixes dustbowl guitar lines with reggae rhythm figures as a saxophone takes the spotlight bringing a jazz texture to proceedings. Whilst a tremolo guitar-line adds a country vibe to the title track as it encroaches on the shanks and dub bass.
There’s nothing earth shatteringly original here, but it recaptures the mainstream sound of Jamaica in a way most reggae bands fail to achieve. The production is superb throughout giving the album an effortless sheen, but don’t be fooled there’s more attention to detail here than on a hipster’s beard.