Tarrus Riley, son of world-renowned reggae icon Jimmy Riley, roared onto the reggae scene in 2004 with his debut release, Challenges. This release quickly familiarized Jamaica, the Caribbean, and the rest of the world with Tarrus’ emotive tenor vocals and uplifting words. Riley’s debut release propelled him to the forefront of the resurgence in traditional roots reggae; however, his position was cemented with the 2006 release, Parables.
Parables proved that Tarrus Riley is picking up where his father left off, producing artful Rastafarian declarations juxtaposed with provocative social commentaries. In addition to jumpstarting the roots reggae renaissance, Parables also featured the most popular reggae song of 2007, “She’s Royal.” Though critically acclaimed, the accolades garnered by this second album created pressure for a substantial follow-up. Tarrus must have been keenly aware of the task, taking the challenge in stride with the release of Contagious.
Contagious feeds off of the same positive energy created with Parables. Tarrus, who describes his music as “healing music,” has become masterful at setting universal, contemporary themes to the rhythms of reggae. This album plays as a story reads, offering the listener a detailed portrayal of strife, perseverance, good fortune, love, and family. The album opens quickly with, “Living the Life of a Gun”, depicting the detriment a gun can bring even when viewed as a necessary tool in the hands of desperate people. “Superman” is uplifting, discussing the importance of strong relationships despite hardships. A featured track on the album sure to see radio play, “Good Girl Gone Bad” changes the pace and brings a different tone with the featured vocals of Konshens. “It Will Come” closes the album by considering the strength of family, including a kind nod to Michael Jackson with a fantastic cover of the Jackson favorite “Human Nature”.
This latest release is a solid reggae album that will certainly prove to be a success for Tarrus. His skill at bridging traditional roots and modern reggae will offer the substance needed to make Tarrus Riley’s music a standard in the genre. Contagious is wonderfully produced from start to finish, serving as an excellent introduction to Tarrus Riley or a much-needed companion to his previous releases. If you’re ever in Cousin’s Cove, Jamaica you will most definitely hear Tarrus’ smooth voice wafting in the salty nighttime breeze.
Contagious is out now on VP Records.