Live At Stubb's

Matisyahu

Or. Music, 2005

http://www.matismusic.com

REVIEW BY: Eric Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/28/2008

If I asked you to name three things you associate with reggae music, Hasidic Judaism probably wouldn’t be one of them.

However, that hasn’t stopped Matisyahu (born Matthew Miller) from becoming one of the most popular modern reggae artists in America. The singer has been part of the Hasidic movement since 2001. Accordingly, he has grown a beard, wears simple clothes and does not perform on the Sabbath -- meaning he cannot perform on Friday nights.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Matisyahu’s religion has had a deep influence on his music. Many of his songs focus his experiences and his struggle to maintain his faith in today’s society, while others tell about specific parts of the Jewish religion. The passion with which Matisyahu performs his music is undeniable, and shines through especially in this live show.

Musically, Matisyahu seamlessly blends reggae, rap, hip-hop and guitar solos more typical of rock. Backed by Roots Tonic (Aaron Dugan, guitar; Josh Werner, bass; and Jonah David, drums), most songs follow a traditional reggae rhythm with a strong, walking bass line. If you’re a sucker for a good bass line like I am, you’ll love this album; every song has a catchy, unique line that drives the instrumental melody.

Soaring over the instrumentation, Matisyahu’s vocals are superb. In addition to the traditional reggae vocals that carry most songs, Matisyahu raps on songs like “King Without a Crown” and “Chop ‘Em Down.”  Oh, yeah -- he also beat-boxes. Matisyahu’s lyricism doesn’t suffer, either. His lyrics are deeply personal, yet relatable. Although religiously themed, the songs he writes touch on subjects common to the human experience.

There isn’t a single “filler” song on this album. Each is unique in its own right, and is performed with the same passion that defines Matisyahu’s sound. From the up-tempo “Chop ‘Em Down,” which retells the book of Exodus, to “Aish Tamid,” a serene song about the thoughts going through his head as he sits on a park bench in New York City, Matisyahu’s musical talent and unbridled passion shine through.

If you’re a fan of reggae music, are curious to hear a Hasidic Jew beat-box, or just appreciate a good bass line, you’ll find something to enjoy in this album.

Rating: A

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