One of the most common mistakes reggae artists have historically made is that of overproducing: the minute it becomes clear that they're capable of making hit songs, they immediately embark on a three-albums-a-year regimen that leaves them spent and the public fatigued. I-Octane (ha) has wisely bided his time. Despite a string of hit singles over the past several years, Crying to the Nation is his first full-length album, and it's a solid winner. A variety of Jamaican producers provide a range of rhythms and textures for him to sing over, most of them on the funky but gentle side; his voice is pleasing and his messages consistently uplifting. Although he seems to depend on Auto-Tune a bit more than one might wish, he uses it more subtly than many of his colleagues do, and although he sometimes gets perilously close to the nasal pseudo-gospel whine that makes so many of his roots-and-culture colleagues so hard to listen to, he never crosses the line -- and his ability to jump from crooning to singjay toasting within the space of a beat is both impressive and fun. The songs are consistently strong, but particular highlights include "Zion Awaits" and the affecting "Lose a Friend." There are fine cameo appearances from Alborosie, Tarrus Riley, and the excellent deejay Agent Sasco. And he gets an extra half-star for including not a single skit on the program.
Crying to the Nation Review
by Rick Anderson