Saint Croix artist Iba led off the crucial Talkin' Roots, Vol. 1 compilation with his lesson in righteous living, "Chant," and that potent number closes Jah Lion, the artist's powerful debut album. As on the comp, Bambu Station oversees the production and provide the album's superb, understated roots reggae riddims. However, the band get their moment of glory on the introspective instrumental "It's Too Late Dub," while Tuff Lion's exquisite guitar work is also highlighted on the acoustic love ballad "African Queen," though Bambu stand back to give Iba pride of place. Reggae fans will immediately note stylistic similarities to Prince Lincoln, surely a plus, but one expects with time Iba will develop a more original style. For now, his emotive, somewhat delicate vocals more than hint at the strength sure to come. His lyrics already display that power, with even his romantic numbers wrapped firmly up in culture. Jah Lion kicks off with the revelatory "Rough Time," a number filled with portents of the apocalypse to come, but there's still "Work to Do" in readiness for that day, and Iba prods the procrastinators out of their lethargy, then further girds the righteous for the upcoming battle on "Jah Lion," and prays for himself and the world on "O'Jah." Each one of these songs is fired by thoughtful, eloquent, and hard-hitting lyrics, the equal, if not better, of any roots era cultural classic you can name. However, the best of a stellar batch is "Dying Breed," where Iba and poet Sagenyah pair up and slash through Babylon's wickedness, warning the youths of its traps, and pressing them towards the path of wisdom. The only sour note sounded on the set comes in "What's It Gonna Take," as Iba rails against homosexuality, and trots out the old chimera of gays attempting to convert the youth. A sad tact to take, especially considering his call to "love your brotherman" a few verses down, and a sentiment that undercuts the message of "Inity," a gorgeous call for unity. Those two unfortunate lines aside, Jah Lion is a stunning album from an emotive artist of awesome lyrical talent, beautifully showcased by Bambu at their best.
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AllMusic Review by Jo-Ann Greene