Speaking in Tongues (Far Island Vision FIVD003, 2005)
Free Joseph has been a working reggae musician for many years, proficient on various instruments and having performed extensively on both U.S. coasts (particularly the west) and abroad. Presently he divides his time between his birthplace on the Caribbean island of Dominica and Concord, New Hampshire. His most recent CD, Speaking in Tongues, would be most readily categorized as reggae, but let’s not be hasty here. It’s an instrumental album, the dominant instrument being, somewhat surprisingly, the flute. And while the pulse of reggae is almost entirely present throughout, it’s not hard imagining this beautiful music fitting into jazz, easy listening or even new age formats.
There’s an uplifting, heartfelt vibe that infuses the whole thing, with tracks like “Simple,” “Right Way a Wrong” and “Essence of Love” giving an idea of what’s on Free’s mind even though there’s no lyrics to provide clarification (the title thus takes on a kind of mystic irony that adds to the disc’s ample
Absent is much of the militant quality often associated with reggae, though there is a strong sense of roots in the grooves even when they’re laced with such things as harmonica or synth strings. In a way, Free does with the flute what Augustus Pablo did with the melodica- he takes a signature instrument and
places it in a reggae context to create a fresh sound.
Call it reggae, call it craftily catchy instrumental music, call it music that’s both laid back and
energizing to mind and body. Speaking in Tongues speaks volumes of great listening on every level.