Old Soul looks at Stephen Marley's past while firmly being rooted in the present, offering glimpses of his life as the second eldest son in the legendary Marley family. Guests include Jack Johnson, Bob Weir, Eric Clapton, and Buju Banton.
Stephen Marley ventures into new territory with Old Soul, an acoustic, soul-leaning album that showcases his evolution as a singer and songwriter. With an impressive lineup of guest and friends joining him like Jack Johnson, Bob Weir, Eric Clapton, Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, Ziggy Marley, Buju Banton, and Slightly Stoopid, the album marks a significant new chapter in Marley's career.
Old Soul stands out as it breaks away from his studio perfectionist reputation to unveil a consummate live performer with a penchant for spontaneity. During the COVID lockdown, grounded from the road, Marley set up a studio on a remote family farm in the Florida countryside, where nightly jam sessions in a converted garage became the birthplace of much of the album. With a stripped-down ensemble featuring binghi drums, bass, acoustic guitar, and flute, Marley played an eclectic mix ranging from original compositions to reggae rarities to classics.
"Irie vibration," is how Marley describes the sounds that emerged from these intimate jam sessions. Most of Old Soul was recorded during these "unplugged" gatherings, capturing the raw essence of the music and the collaborative spirit of the sessions. The album's song selection reflects Marley's refusal to be confined by expectations. "You have to be true to yourself," he asserts. "I refuse to be put into any category. I am inspired by everything. So if I feel like I want to play some jazz music, I will go play some jazz music. Who dig it, dig it."
From the heartfelt tribute to Joe Higgs in "There's A Reward" with Ziggy Marley to the powerful and thought-provoking "Cast The First Stone" featuring Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, Old Soul weaves a diverse array of influences into its fabric. The ska-flavored "Thanks We Get (Do Fi Dem)" with Buju Banton, the beautiful ballad "Standing In Love" with Kyle McDonald, and the acoustified version of Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff" featuring Eric Clapton showcase the album's diversity. "We definitely did want some different sounds," Marley reflects. "We never want to come with the same ray ray ray. We try to make some of them something you can't really identify. Ah just music."
Among the unexpected selections on Old Soul are a sweet cover of Frank Sinatra's "These Foolish Things (Reminds Me Of You)" and Marley's take on the Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down." Closing with "Winding Roads," featuring Bob Weir and Jack Johnson, this final track stands out as the only one on the album recorded with a full band, adding a nice twist ending to the mainly acoustic journey.