The pairing of the two artists first took shape through a chance meeting between Cornell Campbell and Soothsayers’ Robin Hopcraft in Kingston, Jamaica early in 2011. A session was arranged at Bunny Lee’s recording studio in West Kingston and within days the collaboration produced the sweet “I’ll Never Leave,” an homage to Campbell’s island home country in Parish of St Elizabeth. The dub version of the track was released alongside Soothsayers’ “We’re Not Leaving” in August 2011 and the Cornell Campbell version followed on a 45 on Soothsayers’ own Red Earth label a month later.
Now signed to Strut, the collaboration has resulted in a full album, a conscious and roots-based set with Cornell Campbell’s iconic, sweet vocals underpinned by deep, dubby rhythm section work and some fresh, intricate arrangements. Hopcraft adds, “We gave Cornell recordings of some ideas we had been working on. He took them away and developed some lyrics. Idris and I also wrote a few complete songs that Cornell loved and he blessed them with his vocals.”
Within the tracklist, the collective revisits Cornel’s poignant 1970s sufferer’s classic “Jah Jah Me No Born Yah” augmented by the addition of horns and Hammond organ bringing out the Moorish melodies of the original. Soothsayers also bring their trademark fusion of influences to the table and move Cornell’s sound into bold new directions, rocking on a rolling Afro groove for the hard-hitting “Nothing Can Stop Us” and simmering on the downtempo reggae soul gem, “There’s A Fire.”
The album carries forward the considerable legacy of Campbell’s recordings over the last half century, from his early work with “Coxsone” Dodd at Studio One to ‘70s and ‘80s classics with Joe Gibbs, Bunny “Striker” Lee, King Tubby and Winston “Niney” Observer. For Soothsayers, the album is the culmination of ten years leading the London live scene. Comprising musicians that have played with many top artists including Mulatu Astatke, Jerry Dammers’ Spatial AKA Arkestra and Hugh Masekela, the band are known for their excellent collaborations with Johnny Clarke, Maxi Jazz (Faithless), Keziah Jones and more and form the nucleus of the band that backed the London leg of the ‘Fela!’ musical during 2011. The band cemented their reputation with the self-released album Human Nature during 2012. As The Independent On Sunday testified, “The grooves are solid, the playing immaculate and the three-part vocal harmonies the icing on the cake.”