Fya

Fya (I Grade, 2001)

Jaw-dropping is the word that first comes to mind when describing newcomer Dezarie's debut Fya.  With lyrics and melodies penned by her and music constructed by I Grade (igraderecords.com) and members of Midnite, the songs on this album are nothing short of amazing: a mesmerizing live-instrument roots reggae showcase featuring the highest-quality songwriting, musicianship, and production.  Indeed, the quality and consistency throughout the album is reminiscent of Midnite's stellar work.  Musically, of course, there are similarities, since Midnite is the backing band on Fya, but Dezarie adds some twists, from a funky "neo-soul" edge (think Lauryn Hill) on tracks like "All Ova," "Flesh and Bone," and "Fya" to her uniquely ethereal, quivering, almost Middle Eastern twang that's both exotic and engrossing.  Her singing voice feels like a combination of Erykah Badu's smoky coolness, Lauryn Hill's strength and insightfulness, and Dido's elfin airiness.  As with Midnite, Dezarie hails from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, and like Midnite's work, I can't recommend Fya enough.  Songs like "Zion," "Omega," "Sing Out," "Walk Wid Me," and "Don't Cry" are simply gorgeous, and frankly, there is no low point to be found on this album, which very well may be the best female reggae album of all time.  

Track Listing
1. Zion
2. Omega
3. Don't Cry
4. Most High
5. Love Yourself
6. Flesh and Bone
7. Fya
8. All Ova
9. Walk Wid Me
10. Rebel
11. Jah Throne
12. Mind Yu Own
13. Sing Out
14. Iron Sharpen Iron
15. Fya Dub
Fya
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Gracious Mama Africa (Afrikan Roots Lab, 2003)

Gracious Mama Africa is a wondrous achievement from a tragically underexposed artist. The music, as with Fya, supplied by the incomparable Midnite, feels a bit harder than on her debut, sticking more strictly to a roots reggae sound (whereas Fya threw in some more experimental funk, jazz, and hip-hop elements) that Midnite fans should eat up. Dezarie’s lyrics likewise seem more edgy and uncompromising than on her previous material, as she rips into issues like the Catholic priest scandal on "Slew Dem an Done" ("You say your priestly order say you can’t have dealings with de woman, Satan, but you’re still fondling de altar boys"), cloning on "Law fe de Outlaw" ("If you go into the lab to create anymore abnormal humans, you will just die. Curse will fall upon you, your body will attract flies and you won’t know why."), and racial labels on "Gracious Mama Africa" ("What is an African-American, ‘cause if you’re black you are African...Amerigo Vespucci a big heathen, and that is where the name America come from."). Her voice is so tranquil and hypnotic as it floats over the rhythms that you sometimes forget that she’s attacking issues with a ferocity little seen from a female reggae artist outside of Sister Carol. Frankly, her lyrics prove as thoughtful and provocative as any male singer out there, at times reminiscent of Midnite’s own master wordsmith Vaughn Benjamin. From start to finish, there’s nothing on Gracious Mama Africa that makes you want to fast forward. It’s probably a bit more consistent that Fya, but I think that I was blown away just a bit more by her debut (truthfully, that may just be because she was so new and fresh). In any case, if you’re a roots fan, you can’t go wrong with either.  (You can be them both at rastafaria.com.)

Track Listing
1.Gone Down 
2.Poverty 
3.Not One Penny 
4.Strengthen Your Mind 
5.Law fe de Outlaw 
6.Justice 
7.Gracious Mama Africa 
8.Exhalt 
9.Mother and Child 
10.Travelers 
11.Slew Dem an Done 
12.Judgement Come
Gracious Mama Africa
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Eaze the Pain (Afrikan Roots Lab, 2008)

Eaze the Pain is perhaps Dezarie's most consistent of her three albums to date, which is saying a lot from a woman I consider to be the best female reggae artist in the biz. While her countrymen Midnite venture into increasingly experimental, quirky sounds, Dezarie sticks with what made us fall in love with her in the first place: rich roots reggae sung with an ethereal, almost otherworldly panache. Her melodies are sublime and catchy without becoming cutesy, resorting to a dancheall edge when needed and always perfectly playing off the deep roots grooves that fill the album. From the triumpant "What ah Mornin'" to the swaying "For the People/By the People" to the fiery title track to the best tune, the goosebump-inducing "Always Remember You," there are no weak spots to be found on Eaze the Pain. If you have yet to discover Dezarie, what are you waiting for???

Track Listing
1. Hail Jah
2. What Ah Mornin
3. Always Remember You
4. Eaze The Pain (Redemption)
5. Real Lub
6. Concern
7. Angels
8. Set Da Flame
9. The Truth
10. Anotha Rebolution
11. For The People/ By The People
12. Rastafari
Eaze the Pain
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