Southern Florida’s Bushwood is a rising reggae group. In the wake of contemporary reggae juggernaughts like Slightly Stoopid, John Brown’s Body, and Rebelution, how do you stay afloat? The group’s first record was promising, although not exemplary. It was striving to be chill, and succeeded at times, although didn’t feel organic.
Bring on Tidal Wave, which is no sophomore slump. They hit their stride here, adding Carl Dykes on saxophone and Claudio Napoles on keys, which rounds out the band and turns them from a group going for roots into a group owning their sound.
We’ve heard of SoCal, but SoFla? It works. Laid back grooves, sometimes Sublime-like, sometimes funkier, they are good times through and through. We start off with “Let It Flow”, with a title that already sets the tone. “Envision your toes in the sand while laying in the sunshine,” singer Steve Voronkov sings, calmly over a roots groove. “Every note has its place.” Then there’s the title track. “Get up on the dance floor now.” No doubt they have a thematic focus.
Bushwood breaks their mold a bit for “Determination”, going for a more empowering and less chill out lyrical motif. “Don’t rely on anyone to get where you need to be/ You gotta sacrifice/ nothing in life is free.” Sure, the lyrics are never magic. Bushwood goes for steady hooks over spell casting.
Still, on songs like “I Don’t Want My MTV”, which straight up says, “I don’t want my MTV/ It ain’t what it used to be/ yeah,” you get the sense that they have an edge to them they haven’t fully explored. The groove here is wild, though. Adding horns to the crew was a great idea. “Turn off the TV/ What happened to the music?” Bushwood isn’t the trite pop/reggae dudes you immediately expect them to be.
Tidal Wave succeeds at its task. It is summery, smooth, funky, and fun. Even at its most serious, the sextet focuses on vibe over content, which isn’t to say the lyrics are weak. They just aren’t revolutionary. No worries. We’re here to get down. We’re here to dance and feel good.
In an age where reggae seems divided between rock oriented love jams and roots-driven political commentary, Bushwood is between. You could love this band easily. Just turn it up and give in. You will not be disappointed.
Bottom line: Their second album being much better than their first- this attuned roots sextet gets you feeling good and soaking in their Florida vibe.