Friday, October 24, 2014

Rewind! - "Hit Me With Music" by Sara Lugo

"Hit Me With Music" by Sara Lugo [Oneness Records]
BOOM AGAIN! Keeping the celebration going for the release of "Hit Me With Music", the brand new and second album from Achis Reggae favourite, Sara Lugo, today we're giving it a second treatment and an even closer look. Following one of the strongest debut albums you'll hear in "What About Love", "Hit Me With Music" was an album I was not only very much anticipating but also had high hopes for and, as expected, it met and exceeded them all. And while you can certainly claim that this time around, Lugo embraced the Jazz side of her style a bit more, I cannot imagine that anyone who stuck around from the first album, and through all of the wonderful singles she gave us in between the two, will be disappointed with the direction of the second. It once again displays one of the nicest and most curious talents anywhere in Reggae today. And we're displaying it again as we wrap up 'Sara Lugo Week' and REWIND! "Hit Me With Music" by Sara Lugo.

See Original Review
1. 'The One'

"…high like a kite in the sky." The opener for "Hit Me With Music", 'The One', was and remains and absolute joy to listen  to. The song is built upon this wholly addictive bounce and you bounce, to the point of a neck cramp, right along with it and you won't be complaining at song's end. If I wanted to kind of grind this one down (because that's just what I do), what I take away from it besides being so damn nice to the ears, is the sense of really appreciating the moment. "THE ONE", whoever they may be, may be the one forever or they may be the one for right now, regardless, love them and enjoy! And personally I really like this song because when I play it loud enough when she's up, I can hear my Wife walking around singing the chorus, "you make me sing, lalalalalalala!). 

2. 'Really Like You' featuring Protoje

"Something about you." 'Really Like You' is like the first song on the album in the sense of both its direction and the way that it is best appreciated, at least in my opinion. It is another composition (this one courtesy of Silly Walks) which is just fun to listen to and that is what sticks with you. Unlike 'The One', however, 'Really Like You' is infectiously slow, DUSTY and Jazzy. For their parts, Lugo and Protoje team up and deliver a performance which 'really' fits so nicely with the music and, alongside the immediate amount of attention this one should grab on paper, make a song which should be one of the most noticed on this album for its QUALITY as well. Also I HAVE to mention (because I'm a nerd) how much I loooooooooove the way 'Really Like You' ends. I will not ruin it for you but the cool and subtle echo affect given to Lugo's vocals is an excellent touch. 

3. 'Hit Me With Music'

"When it hits, you feel no pain." Not because of the way it is delivered, inherently, but more so because of the way that it is written I now hear so much PASSION in the eponymous effort from "Hit Me With Music". She sings it, for the most part, in a relaxed tone (it's a beautiful tone but probably every thing coming out of this woman's mouth is going to sound beautiful) but there're times during 'Hit Me With Music' when you get the feeling that, by what she's saying, … Sara Lugo is kind of pissed off! 

“Why do we gotta act all tense
It doesn't make much sense
Didn't we all start out of love?
Are you with me?"

Again, I think she's 'hitting' at the industry and business side of music which seem to continue to drain away the human-element of how music is appreciate and just how much it means to people as an escape from daily life ["World off, music on - I push the button"] and an endless line of other reasons. And Lugo does throw the intensity higher during the tune's second half where the riddim goes up right along with her.

“Yes I love it 
When you hit me with music, hit me with music"

I was interested in how this tune came to be the album's title (based on what she's wearing, 'Black & White' would have been a fine choice as well), but it so coincides with Sara Lugo's style, this idea of making music which does challenge the listener to pay attention but also really makes a careful and genuine effort to sound so nice and that's exactly what happens on this song and the other eleven as well.

4. 'Black & White'

"I hope one day, you'll see." 'Black & White' is a song which is quickly becoming a favourite of mine from Lugo's on this album and beyond and, in this particular case, it is largely due to the lyrics. While it sounds amazing (biggup Morry), 'Black & White' taps into the idea of being unique in one way or another and not only acknowledging it but taking pride in it and making it one of the things that you love most about yourself. Lugo's method of illustrating this comes in her varied heritage but it fits on almost any 'surface'. So [!], if you could probably fit COMFORTABLY in a backpack (biggup Sara Lugo), if you only have nine fingers (biggup Xkaliba) or if you have a MASSIVE allergy to common sense (biggup Achis), "that’s alright…", "believe me, it's alright". Wananananananananana. 

5. 'Soldiers Of Love'

"You have a choice." TEARS! There has emerged a very urgent quality about 'Soldiers Of Love', a song on which Sara Lugo celebrates individuality and "shits in the brains" of conformity to a fractured way of thinking and behaving. I liked this song when I first heard it and definitely found its loose relation to any genre in particular damn compelling. These days, however, I LOVE this song. 

"You follow someone else's voice
You have a choice
But you choose the easy way -
Like a slave"

It's sound is interest, obviously, but if you listen to what is being said it gets even brighter and the two match. From what you hear - it gives the listener the sense (even if you are not paying the best attention) (shame!) that something really crucial is happening and, at least for me, it really makes you focus on the words. And when you have a selection where the MOOD matches the message so fittingly as it does here, you probably have something special on a song which I well expect to be very popular.

6. 'I Wish'

"All the best, best, best." BOOM! 'I Wish' was another song which I liked instantly but, having had a little time now to really take it in, it's even better than I thought it was. What changed is my recognition of the emotion of the song, which isn't the major area of focus here. I don't know if you've ever wronged anyone (actually I do know, I'm just saying that) but if you have, there is often this downright sickening moment when you become aware that you have and it becomes soooooooo difficult to think about anything else, particularly if "anyone" is really special to you and you want to make it right as soon as possible. If you listen closely, you hear Lugo go through all of these things musically in her own way. And, as I said, as someone who has now had more than thirty-three years of INTENSE experience of doing… really REALLY dumb shit, 'I Wish' is virtually biographical for me. A HUGE SONG! 

7. 'Play With Fire'

"Learn by doing." BOOM! 'Play With Fire' is still my favourite song on "Hit Me With Music" and, with the exception of the songs with which I was already familiar, it's definitely the piece here which I've listened to most so while I may not have much in the way of progression of an idea, I do have something. The song is one about making mistakes and having to pay for what you've done and it is presented in the way of trying to do right and at least making an attempt to not do negative things. HOWEVER, I always like when people acknowledge and respect the nature of human beings (and our tendencies) and mistakes. And that is exactly what Lugo does on 'Play With Fire'. She says that she, herself, went through things ["I learned my lesson and yes, it hurts"] and she does the same for everyone else ["Now I got no time to play around. No time to lose. But some things you gotta learn by doing"] which is respecting that while it is bad to play with fire, you're probably going to do it anyway and when you get burned (and you will), learn from it and learn that it isn't the end of the world (as I once heard said, "You are a product of your worst mistakes"). An even greater aspect of a song which I loved and apparently I wasn't the only one because they made a video for it. 
Speaking of the video for "Play With Fire". It is simply lovely. It features Lugo, almost exclusively, she is only joined by an actual fire, an old man on a mower, a driver and the video's real star, a dog. It's very simple and features nice French scenery and we see Lugo playing with fire… literally. What stood out most for me is the old man who, at video's end, is revealed to be fitted with some type of breathing apparatus and he's and example of what can happen if you 'play with fire' (but even in his case, it isn't the end of the world). It's very subtle and appropriate for the song and for Lugo's music in general. Well done (and I currently have my own experience with this as I've been eating peanuts while writing this and just now, after about half an hour, I looked down and… yeah, gotta get a broom). 

"Salam" by Ras Muhamad [2014]
8. 'Learn To Grow' featuring Ras Muhamad

"Be who you wanna be." 'Learn To Grow' (which I apparently also call 'Learn & Grow') is a song which I've looked at extensively now having reviewed it twice and now having a second REWIND for the tune as it initially appeared on Ras Muhamad's colossal "Salam" album but in the nature of several other songs on "Hit Me With Music", I do have yet another new fondness of it. That comes with, again, seeing how the song really sends up individuality and uniqueness. It is a piece about learning and maturing in life but those lessons and that maturation is to be applied in what YOU want to apply them to. There's no formula or template for life and I think that one of the prevailing messages behind this song was to find what it is that you want to do (or at least TRY to find it) and then "show some effort" to be the best at it that you can. And, I have to add just how lovely this song was on the ears. It's fantastic. 

9. 'Never Ever'

"You better recharge, you better restart." As I said in the review, 'Never Ever' was a very distinct song and something about definitely stood out to my opinion. What was it? I kind of get the feeling that it is a song Sara Lugo wrote about Sara Lugo. And while we get another taste of the idea of developing and maturing as a person, I think in the case of 'Never Ever', this was Lugo's own story. She gets very detailed at times ["Her best friend once told her. 'Never give up. Never let success get to your mind. Never let failure get to your heart' "] and, again, either through her own personal experiences (which has my vote) or through a damn sharp pen, she really places you in the moment of the emotion and what happens is easily one of the most compelling efforts on the entire album. 

10. 'Love The Children'

"I don't wanna be the only one." In retrospect, 'Love The Children' is a song which features that quintessential Al.Ta.Fa.An sound. It is downright LUSH and brimming with substance musically which is what typically what they do at their best and this song clearly demonstrates that on the musical end. And I think they knew that which is why it is set with a second half which is an instrumental. Vocally, it goes without saying that it is a well sung song… it is a Sara Lugo album after all but I do think it is a song which is slightly different than what we're used to hearing from her (and she did not write this song) and that's always a nice touch to see someone, particularly like her with the voice which could make it work, stepping in a different direction and I'm glad that they did this song. 

11. 'More Love'

"Gimme more." 'More Love', the other Al.Ta.Fa.An helmed song on this album is kind of the opposite of its predecessor. Though the track here is also BEAUTIFUL, what stands out far ahead are the vocals. Not to beat it down too much, but Lugo sounds SO nice on this tune. It is a love song specifically about how going through struggles in a relationship are not necessarily the time to quit but instead are the times which can bring people closer together. Her voice absolutely DANCES [!] on this track, with one of the most rousing moments being the final minute or so where Lugo, essentially, does Jazz scats along to the riddim and it's something she, unsurprisingly, does very well and hopefully this isn't the final time we get to hear her do it. 

"You were the one to brighten up my rainy days
You came into my life and took my blues away"

12. 'High & Windy' featuring Kabaka Pyramid

"The story must go on." And it fits perfectly that the final song on this album is probably the most well known piece that Sara Lugo has ever done. 'High & Windy' was her big song alongside Kabaka Pyramid for the Oneness' ReggaeVille Riddim and, as I said, even after all of this time and having surely heard it over a hundred times now, it still sounds so strong. It also fits, coincidentally, as a fine tribute from this album to the legendary John Holt, the original vocalist of the song.

There're so many powerful themes of maturation and maintaining individuality and a sense of self explored throughout this album that you know we'll have to revisit this one some day soon. Until then, however, hopefully you get the point that we’ve tried to give you all week long: PICK UP "HIT ME WITH MUSIC" THE BEAUTIFUL BRAND NEW ALBUM FROM THE AMAZING SARA LUGO AND ONENESS RECORDS! DO IT RIGHT NOW! BOOM!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Discography: Sara Lugo!

Give us a reason to go digging and we will (… and sometimes we will even when you don't give us one). We continue the unofficial but clearly active 'Sara Lugo Week' around here with a look back at what lead us to the current release of a singer who has well proven to be one of our absolute favourites throughout the life of these pages. Armed with a highly intoxicating and truly one-of-a-kind blend of Roots Reggae and Jazz, the tall German singer has also proven to be well durable in such a short period of time and has, already, worked with some of the biggest production talents in all of Reggae music. She has also dazzled with a voice which seems 'created’ to do something in particular, but has found success in every way in which she has applied it to date. So now we take a look at the brief but extremely potent and powerful catalogue of someone who we cannot get enough of. Discography: Sara Lugo


"Sara Lugo" EP [Oneness Records - 2009]

Get familiar. Over the course of the last half decade or so as Reggae music has made its presence well known on the digital medium of music, we have seen a stunning amount of EP's from a variety of names. From the biggest side, with the likes of Bounty Killer, Sizzla Kalonji and Chronixx, to up and comers alike, the genre has produced a healthy amount of them and will seemingly continue to (which is fantastic). With that being said, unsurprisingly, one of my favourites remains this introduction and self-titled set from Sara Lugo and Oneness Records. In just a few tracks, this very straight-forward released managed to compile a pair of the biggest tunes Lugo has ever done in 'Familiar Stranger' and the tranquilly infectious 'Rock Steady'. Also featured was another tune with a grand importance, 'And They Cry' (which may've been the first time I heard Sara Lugo's music, in retrospect) alongside another favourite of ours, Naptali and the EP also carried a somewhat overlooked but glowing vocal display in 'Mother & Child'. Though it would take another two years to arrive, this Umberto Echo produced project would well set the stage for the FULL dosage of funky comfort which was to come next from Sara Lugo. 
"What About Love" [Oneness Records - 2011]
…funky comfort. One of the best EP's I've heard would lead into one of the best debut albums I've heard in 2011 as Lugo would deliver her all kinds of compelling first full release, "What About Love". I've probably written about this album more than anyone and (this CERTAINLY WILL NOT be the last time) with good reason as it ranks as a set which, now three and a half years on, has managed to continue to not only rise in quality but also constantly offer new and interesting aspects to consider. That's a rare quality in an album where I do not find myself relentlessly having to place together concepts and distinguish meanings (not that I'm complaining about that) (biggup Vaughn Benjamin). In this case, "What About Love" STILL catches me with its sound. I hear beautiful things like on 'Nothing To Worry' where, more than three and a half minutes into a song less than five minutes long,  it EXPLODES! I hear a powerful simplicity in a song like 'Soul Chaos' which so vividly accentuates the fact that the vocals there are tremendous and it took me years to realize just how strong they were. A relatively newfound greater appreciation for acoustic cut of 'Familiar Stranger' (a song I could listen to endlessly these days and another one with a sound which detonates at one point). I hear 'Locked Away' and immediately get images in my mind of Sara Lugo rolling around with a cactus plant [OUCH!]. I hear 'If Tears' with a different from my own Grandmother transitioned in January and songs like 'Part of My Life', 'Rock Steady' and 'What Happened' are, like the album in full, personal classics for me. A gem. 
"Hit Me With Music" [Oneness Records - 2014]

The light album. I'm sure there were others (probably quite a few of them) but, in theory, I don't know the last time I would have looked so much forward to a release than I would have to "new Sara Lugo album". And though we had to wait three and a half years (and, at least today, it doesn't seem like a particularly long time, looking back), what eventually would arrive, "Hit Me With Music", would not disappoint and it probably couldn't have even if it tried to. The most immediate (still very developing) response to this one is definitely just how FINE it is to listen to. If "Hit Me With Music" was a person, she'd have flaming red hair, she'd be "kinda grey" and she'd be very, very attractive. This album just makes me smile every time I heard it - and we'll tell you more about that (again) [WHAT!] [BOOM!] on Friday. While you're waiting, you have no reason not to pick up everything on this list.

Monday, October 20, 2014

'Play With Fire' by Sara Lugo!

Big [and best] tune from her brand new album, "Hit Me With Music" - in stores now! BOOM!

 
John Holt stand up!
Nicholas Walters stand up!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

'The Light Song'

Biggup Bredz for tracking down 'the light song' which, officially, is called 'Night Race' by Achis Reggae favourite, Sara Lugo. The song released a few years back as part of the soundtrack for a racing documentary film called "24Hours" (and hopefully you'll find the picture down there somewhere). I haven't heard any of it but the one song but I love this song. As I said in the review for Lugo's new album ["Hit Me With Music", in stores now], every time I hear this tune I get pictures of bright lights in a dark room and also, it is a very rare PERFECTLY sang song in my opinion. So check out 'Night Race' by Sara Lugo & Toussaint because it isn't like you have anything better to do. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

'Something In Between': A review of "Hit Me With Music" by Sara Lugo

Tagless. Placing things into categories and labelling them is just a matter of grand convenience in my opinion. It makes it much easier to find things, refer to them and to remember them at some point in the future. In the absence of such a habit - you can imagine going to a restaurant and ordering food and having them bring you a plate of car keys and a bill to match because "restaurant" is no longer the place to go for (hopefully) good food when you don't feel like cooking and instead is just… that place where they… sell stuff. On more familiar terms - if you place it into a context of music, can you think of what might happen if suddenly musical categories were eliminated? We use words such as 'genre' to mark the distinction between styles but if not for that maybe we could do things alphabetically and in your search for the likes of Beenie Man, Bounty Killer and Bunji Garlin, you'd likely have a virtually endless line of Beethoven and David Bowie to sift through as well. So labels definitely do have their place but occasionally their function exists at its greatest to suggest, rather than to actually designate. In music this is continuously true as vocalists, producers and musicians mix styles on a seemingly endless basis. What we're dealing with today, however, is something which is far less planned and programmed and, instead, is as organic and untreated as a good nap (the best naps are when you don't lay down and say that you're going to take a nap but just kind of fall asleep unintentionally). It echoes of the previously mentioned Bunji Garlin who (is a perfect connection considering what he's doing these days) [new album, "Differentology", in stores now] MASTERED a brand of Soca music which was absolutely flooded with colours and textures of Dancehall music and what may have been regarded as a gimmick at one time has helped to make him into one of the greatest of all time. And while I may be the only one (I am) who would draw a direct line of comparison between fire-breathing Trini Soca lyrics king Garlin and cavity-causingly sweet singing German Sara Lugo [WHAT!] [BOOM!], what the latter has managed to do in developing something so damn infectiously unusual that she was born with has been no less fascinating. Listening to what she has done, even in single spots, has been as compelling as anyone that I consistently listen to over the course of the past half decade and, most fortunately, I see no end in sight.  
"What About Love" [2011]
For her music, the tool Sara Lugo utilizes is a delightful mixture of Reggae and more traditional Jazz. And while she may have peers, on paper, amongst the likes of an Ernest Ranglin or someone like that, what she is capable of doing, as a vocalist, I don't think I have EVER heard anyone do before her and I've been hooked from the first moment I really took a deep listen. Back in 2011, wonderfully, some of those aforementioned "single spots" decided to come together and hang out on "What About Love", Lugo's outstanding debut album release from Oneness Records. In retrospect that set, which brought together major moments such as 'Familiar Stranger', 'Part of My Life', 'Soul Chaos' (my current favourite) and so many others, so impeccably displayed her skills and stands as one of the better debut albums in recent years in my opinion. From then, Lugo certainly has not been invisible and she's made some excellent music in the three years since (for example, she did a tune called 'Om Tare', dig it up, it shows perfectly exactly what that amazing voice is capable of. It is a HALTING performance). And I do have to say that she's become a definitive favourite of ours. Along with making fantastic music and doing it with a very different and captivating style - she's also been a very nice person and if you haven't noticed (shame on you!) I've basically spent the last three years SHOUTING to anyone who would listen just how much you need to be paying to attention to this woman's music.  

And now I'm going to shout even louder! Through stringing together some very strong singles and making appearances on various projects, eventually we would arrive at an album I've pretty much been look forward to from… immediately after I heard "What About Love" and today, it’s here! Sara Lugo and Oneness Records present her highly anticipated sophomore set, "Hit Me With Music". Someone will have to do something RIDICULOUS over the course of the final two and half months of 2014 to keep me from proclaiming the Germany based Oneness the best European label of the year as they have been on a ROLL which has been highlighted by now releasing the second of a pair of albums that I have really been looking forward to (more on that in a minute). Just like its predecessor, "Hit Me With Music" is headed by the esteemed Umberto Echo and, to his credit, it is an immaculately put-together record. To her credit, Sara Lugo, herself, appears to have taken more of a pronounced role in making this album as well. Along with taking a production credit for the entire album, with Echo), Lugo also helped in recording a few of the album's twelve songs (nearly half by my surely incorrect count) and on at least one song, she even plays an instrument. And you could use that to springboard into a nice examination about growth and development as a musician, which is probably the best direction to go in - me, on the other hand, my first thought was just how cool of an idea that was and, looking forward, to what we might find her doing on future albums. As for now, however, where Sara Lugo musically sits in 2014 - she's doing fantastic. Let me tell you about it… and even if you don't stick around, I'm just going to keep going anyway.
My first thought about the new album was one which has somewhat dissipated after listening to it, for the most part, endlessly this week. I thought that, when compared to the first, album #2 was a bit more open and Jazz-centric and while that may be true in the broadest sense I don't think it is such a large portion of the story behind this one. You don't look back at "What About Love" now as this Reggaefied powerhouse (with tunes like 'Soul Chaos', 'Locked Away' ["… said you won't hurt me, but you did it anyway"] [BOOM!] and 'If Tears'), instead, it is best remembered, again, as this project which so vividly demonstrated the most curious plurality of the talent of its star. Three years later and Sara Lugo's second album, "Hit Me With Music", in that respect, picks up right where its older sister left off and where it literally picks up is on the joyous and Ska-ish 'The One'. First of all, you'll love the bounce behind this track and Lugo uses it to back one of the sweetest vocal displays on the whole of the album, for a piece which finds her some form of hypnotized by a special person who has caught her attention. Also displaying well is the player of the horn on the tune who shines particularly during the latter stages. A fine start. Things stay on a similar note but get a lot more colourful on the album's second selection, 'Really Like You'. The first of three combinations here, on the Silly Walks produced 'Really Like You' Sara Lugo is joined by the always interested Protoje. There is a really intriguing quality about this tune and, if you are looking to classify things, for me this one fits both feet firmly in Reggae and Jazz/Soul. It is crawling and funky and, as expected, the two deliver in a big way on a tune sure to grab a whole heap of notice on "Hit Me With Music". Another song which should do that, which takes us right up to the gate and drops us off at Jazz' front door, is 'Hit Me With Music'

"WORLD OFF - MUSIC ON
I PUSH THE BUTTON
WORLD OFF - MUSIC ON
I PUSH THE BUTTON
WORLD OFF - MUSIC ON
I PUSH THE BUTTON"

BOOM! For me, this song is one about people underrating and misusing music. Lugo speaks about how music has become robotic and mostly about business and, somehow, people have managed to take it in the wrong damn direction ["Quantity before quality - is that what we want and need? Music's just a commodity in the world economy"] - overlooking the most important part of it which is the MUSIC and all of its wonderful qualities. Easily one of the best songs on the album named after it (and I should spray some credit around because the horn on this one is also impressive and a Max Wittmann plays on both tunes, so biggup Max Wittmann - WELL DONE!) is the song which is probably best appreciated while wearing sunglasses… and a hat. 

Sara Lugo, herself, actually addresses the idea of using labels and categories (which is where I got the idea from) on another very big moment here and one which directly shows things in her unique perspective, 'Black & White'. As far as I know, Lugo is half-German and half-Puerto Rican and she musically embraces both on this big, big tune. 

"I'm not too much of my Mother
Not too much of my Father
So if you wanna go one way, what if I chose another?
Does that make you right?
And it makes me wrong?
CAUSE EVERYTHING I'VE GOT INSIDE - THAT'S WHAT MAKES ME STRONG
No matter what, I'm a be me
No matter what, I'm a be free
You don't have to accept it but I hope one day you'll see

I'm not Black and I'm not White
I'm something in between and that's alright
Believe me, it's alright
Cause I'm not Black and I'm not White
I'm something in between and that's alright
Believe me, it's alright

I'm a be me and I won't quit
What you see is what you get
I'm a live my life with no regrets
IF YOU WANNA STAND OUT, WHY WOULD YOU SIT?
Little bit of this, I'm a little bit of that
Little bit of White, I'm a little bit of Black
I GUESS THAT MAKES ME GREY!
I'M A LOVE ME ALWAYS!"

Along with it (like the title track) being amongst the best written songs on this album, again, 'Black & White' is absolutely delightful to listen to and a real highlight on "Hit Me With Music". "Highlight" is a good word to describe the tune which follows 'Black & White', the all kinds of interesting 'Soldiers Of Love'. I'm not even going to attempt to describe this one in terms of being of a particular sound or genre but I will tell you that it reminds me of something. A few years ago, Lugo did a tune called 'Night Race' which was a part of a soundtrack for a racing documentary and I always remember that as 'the light song' because every time I hear it I picture bright lights in a dark room (for some reason) and now 'the light song' has a sequel because I get the same feeling from 'Soldiers Of Love'. For me the actual composition here is a broad call to action. It is a song about doing standing up for yourself and for everything that you are and what you are capable of. It's also a piece about overcoming adversity and negative people that you will encounter in life at some point. Furthermore (I just like to break stuff down), from the other side, it's also about not being that negative asshole who is always telling someone what they can't do. The song does 'appreciate' its sound, especially later on where it builds momentum and dazzles the listener as the 'Minister of Defence' returns. Not to be missed. The first half of "Hit Me With Music" ends in a very comfortable and unfortunately entirely relatable way with 'I Wish'. This track is an apology and, as someone who has done wayyyyyyyyyy too much stuff in his life that I have had to apologize for, I appreciate it - with the prevailing sentiment being: Sometimes you fuck up with other people. Learn how to say that you're sorry for it. Lugo, along with a Lionel Wharton, does the music for both 'Soldiers Of Love' and 'I Wish' (and she helps on the title track as well) which are the direct examples taking a next step in her career. 
The second half of "Hit Me With Music" features the other two large combinations, a trio of very solid efforts and my absolute favourite song on the album as well. The most popular song on the album is definitely 'High & Windy' which was the first link between Lugo and someone who is turning out to be one of the greatest wordsmiths in all of Reggae music, the constantly scalding Kabaka Pyramid. The tune was carried through via Oneness' indomitable ReggaeVille Riddim (it was also the most popular song there too) and has not lost a twinkle of its lustre over the past two or three years and, hopefully, appearing on this album, it gets the attention of a new batch of listeners because it deserves it. As I alluded to, earlier this year Oneness gave us another album I'd been really looking forward to (THANK YOU! Thank you Oneness) by the name of "Salam", which was a big album from Indonesian chanter, Ras Muhamad. That release carried a piece by the name of 'Learn To Grow' which featured Sara Lugo and the song also makes it way to "Hit Me With Music". This one is still very fresh and hasn't even found its way off of my radars but maybe now is a good time for it to find its way on to yours if it hasn't already (I always think about how Reggae music brought together two such diverse talents in that particular case and did it on a big song). The well esteemed Al.Ta.Fa.An helps Lugo with a pair of damn strong selections in 'Love The Children' and 'More Love'. The former is a regrettably necessary social commentary because people continue to mistreat children. This message is also wrapped up in a very nice package which includes a second half as an entire instrumental which, in my opinion, was a very nice idea. As for 'More Love' (which is my Wife's favourite song on the album), it is JOY to listen to. Though a fairly straight forward love song, I did have to listen to this one quite a few times to illuminate some difficult to describe quality it had. Eventually, after paying a great deal of attention, I got it: ‘More Love' has an excellent riddim (featuring the handiwork of the masterful Dean Fraser, just like the song before it) but the vocals here are on another planet. Sara Lugo doesn't stretch her voice, she probably could sing this song in exactly this same way if she was laying down, but everything that comes out of her mouth -- even when you hear her humming at song's end, during another extended instrumental -- is immaculate! It is subtle, but it may be one of the best SANG songs that I've heard her do which places it in a fine company. The company on "Hit Me With Music" is at its own finest, for me, with the MAMMOTH 'Play With Fire'.

"Most of the time we know what is right -
Yet we do what is wrong, cause we do what we like
Your Mama, she told you 'be honest, be good, treat others the way that you would -
Want them to treat you'
The devil misleads you 
Temptation is king in the struggle that we're living in
We're human, we're full of sin
FATHER FORGIVE ME!
Bless my heart and keep me far from temptation

Well if you play with fire, you will get burned
I, learned my lesson and yes, it hurts
Don't play with fire
Don't play with fire
Don't play with fire"

In a similar method to 'I Wish' (which is the song right before it), 'Play With Fire' tackles a very real and relatable experience in life: Facing consequences of your own actions. It's a matter of maturity (which Lugo deals with directly) and growing up and it's very important. That would have definitely been enough to get my attention but this song is also propelled by one of the strongest musical performances and arrangements here as well, courtesy of  Giuseppe Coppola. A fantastic selection and one which IMMEDIATELY joined my personal favourite Sara Lugo songs ["You're a part of my liiiiiiiiife! I'm a part of youuuuuuuuurs!"]. Lastly, you can't have an album like this and not have an acoustic song ("the acoustic remix of 'Familiar Stranger' was on "What About Love") and that is taken care of on "Hit Me With Music" by the well fascinating 'Never Ever'. I do have a theory about this song which I'll keep (at least until the rewind) but I do think that, at its core, this is a song about growing up and making mistakes in youth which can and often do follow you, in one way or another, throughout your life. But the sound here is somewhere else. It is an acoustic song, but it explodes into this R&B-ish vibe and we also hear Sara Lugo rapping at one point (WHAT!). So definitely spend a little longer on 'Never Ever', what is there is something which requires it. 
Overall, I do have to admit that though I do attempt to be so, I am most certainly NOT unbiased and impartial when it comes to this album. As I said (or at least tried to), I love Sara Lugo's music, I could likely listen to her sing a textbook or two and be pleased. So, unsurprisingly, I like Hit Me With Music". I really like "Hit Me With Music". It's always a point of mine to not compare albums and I won't do it in this case, but what I will say is that if you listen to both of her albums now, you get a very healthy feel for Sara Lugo's style and all of its endearing eccentricities and you never get the feeling of something being pulled together. Hers is a method which is organic and seamless. And, as I knew it would, the more you get into the album the question of what to call her music is one which loses interest continuously - it becomes less and even less of a main point of fascination. Instead, what stands out is the work and for this album, the vibe is exquisite! So, while I do run the risk of having to buy a car the next time I just don't feel like cooking, perhaps it is time to stop looking for a perfect way to categorize this sound and start calling it what it is: GOOD. Sara Lugo scores a unanimous decision victory on the engaging "Hit Me With Music".

Rated: 4.40/5
Oneness Records
2014
CD + Digital

Review #529