Although Marcia Griffiths attained her greatest international exposure as a member of the I-Threes, the female trio that backed Bob Marley on his albums and concerts from 1974 until his passing in 1981, her 41-year career is most remarkable because she is the only singer of either gender to have hits in each distinctive phase of Jamaican popular music. From ska through rock steady, roots reggae through synthesized dancehall, her silky, mellow vocals have effortlessly adapted to the shifts in the island's rhythms.
Griffiths's latest release, Shining Time, presents a variety of new songs alongside thoughtfully considered reggae interpretations of American pop standards. Included is her most recent hit, "Back in the Days," a roots-rocking tribute to several dancehall veterans. She teams up with Shaggy on the pleasant "Harmony," strikes just the right notes with Beres Hammond on the sophisticated lovers' rock of "Focusing Time" and shines brilliantly with singer-songwriter Annette Brissett on "Jah Daughter." Riding a searing beat best described as a modern incarnation of Marley's "Exodus," Brissett's raspy, lower-range vocals contrast with Griffiths's honeyed tone as the two give praises for their divinely inspired persistence in musicmaking: "I await upon my blessings, I await upon my songs / In the morning and the evenings, I await whenever He calls."
From the soulful cover of the Stevie Wonder-penned Aretha Franklin classic "Until You Come Back to Me" to the title ballad that reflects decades of dedication to her craft ("The seeds I've sown have finally grown, it feels like shining time at last," she sings), Griffiths and her executive producers Hopeton Lindo, Syl Gordon and Patrick Lindsay select songs suitable to Griffiths's timeless talent.
Marcia Griffiths appears Friday, July 8, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846. Beres Hammond is also on the bill.
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