"Fortunate Youth" - February 10, 2017
There are few bands this decade that have been as prolific and consistent as Fortunate Youth. Since their 2012 debut album Irie State of Mind, Fortunate Youth has continuously progressed their sound while maintaining the roots the band formed around. In a few short years, FY has gone from an eye catching opening act to a heavily demanded headliner. With the release of their self-titled 5th studio album, the Hermosa Beach 6-piece further solidifies their position among reggae’s upper echelon.
Fortunate Youth is an album with a familiar sound to the rest of the FY catalog, and touches on similar themes such as family, love, unity, and jammin’ to some music. Fortunate Youth doesn’t break down any barriers with their latest release, but they tap into their signature formula of roots rhythms, electrifying guitar solos, and passionate vocals from singer Dan Kelly.
The album begins with “Be Strong,” a quick, but powerful song about coming together and living as one. “Left My Love in California” is an upbeat track that touches on tour life and leaving loved ones behind while out on the road. The easygoing, horn filled song “Friends & Family” transitions us into the meat of the album.
Fortunate Youth takes off beginning with the collaboration with fellow Californians, and reggae rock superstars, Slightly Stoopid. “Irie State” features a killer verse from Stoopid’s Kyle McDonald, who sings out “Sittin’ in my palace, with the herb in my chalice,” likely a play on U-Roy’s classic “Chalice In The Palace.” The two Irish-American singers, McDonald and Kelly, each have distinct voices that play off each other beautifully.
Kumar Bent, lead singer of Jamaica’s Grammy nominated group Raging Fyah, also joined Fortunate Youth to create pure gold on their track “Dial My Number.” The two groups toured together in 2016, supporting Stick Figure during their Set In Stone Tour. Bent’s sweet, soothing vocals provide a dangerously catchy chorus. Bent, no stranger to the roots, fit right in alongside Fortunate Youth.
The album continues strong throughout. From the first song to the twelfth and final song, it is truly a grab bag of good tunes throughout. In my eyes, there aren’t any automatic skips on Fortunate Youth, which is impressive for a full-length. “Life To Be Loved” and “Things” are two favorites on the back end. “Things” is a slow and loungy song, with a crawling guitar riff and subtle background vocals. It may not jump out right away, but this is one of those songs that continues to grow on you.
Fortunate Youth concludes with “Pleasant Dreams,” a soft lullaby that neatly wraps up the band’s 5th studio album. Putting out just about an album a year since 2012, Fortunate Youth is clearly trekking towards the top of the American reggae scene. Fortunate Youth has stuck to their roots from the beginning, which may deny them the cross-over success others have seen, but has endeared them to their core base of reggae fans. Irie State of Mind still holds the #1 spot in my ranking of Fortunate Youth albums because the one-two punch of Kelly and Gonzo was just too good, but the self-titled album is certainly right up there.
Written & Reviewed By: Brian Winters