Strength to Survive

Strength to Survive

SOJA's fourth studio album is also its first for ATO Records, the label co-founded by Dave Matthews. Singer/guitarist Jacob Hemphill cites Bob Marley’s Survival as the main influence for the songs on Strength to Survive. He first heard Marley’s 1979 album when his family was living in the West African country of Liberia. Then a coup began; he and his parents had to hide from the military in abandoned iron bathtubs for three days. This experience, he says, shaped his life and his music. Here, some lightly funky keyboard playing and a traditional-sounding horn section kick off the lead track, “Mentality.” It's a festive blend of roots reggae stripped down and rebuilt with jam-rock accoutrements and Hemphill’s topical musings on a world on the brink of self-destruction. The title track balances chilled-out rhythms with more urgent lyrics calling for our planet’s inhabitants to consume less while gathering the fortitude for persevering in a weary world. The band lightens the load with the mellow Lovers Rock jams “Don’t Worry” and “Tell Me.”

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