Local Wire

Taj Weekes @ The Compound Grill

Taj Weekes doesn't possess a typical "reggae" voice, but that's okay, because he doesn't make "typical" reggae. Weekes' voice is reedy, almost androgynous, and on A Waterlogged Soul Kitchen, his latest release, he puts his unique timbre on display over classic reggae sounds augmented by nods to calypso, folk, blues, and singer/songwriter embellishments. Weekes worked as a radio DJ, and the sounds of the record reflect the varied music he played over the airwaves: "Janjaweed" has the lilt of urban soul, "You Ain't Ready for the Heavy" stomps with a funk edge, and "Drill" could almost work placed in a rock opera. The fusion is sure to earn Weekes and Adowa, his backing band, the attention of reggae fans, but also has the potential to cross over to fans of broader world-influenced pop music like Jack Johnson, Michael Franti & Spearhead, and Ozomatli. But don't mistake the smooth sounds for easy listening; Weekes doesn't shy away from tragedy in Darfur, environmental concerns and anti-war statements — he simply addresses the matters with the kind of sound that won't turn off beer-bonging listeners.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.