10 Ft. Ganja cover10 Ft. Ganja Plant – “10 Deadly Shots Vol. 1” [Reach Out International Records, 2010]

I don’t like the term “old school.” I’ve heard it used to describe things the person regards as no longer relevant and I find it stigmatizing as a result, regardless of intent. So while many may be inclined to describe the music of 10 Ft. Ganja Plant in such a manner, I ain’t gonna. Luckily, alternatives like “classic-sounding” and “golden age” abound. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Before describing the music, a few words about 10 Ft. Ganja Plant are in order. And when I say few, I mean few, since this band with the dreamy botanical moniker remains mysterious, at least if you were looking to do a background check on them. Though they’re generally known (or at least rumored) to be a spinoff of John Brown’s Body, their personnel and studio locations have never been credited on any of the half dozen albums they’ve done for the ROIR label. As to their intent, however, there is no mystery. 10 Ft. Ganja Plant is out to make reggae in a style entirely unencumbered by contemporary trends or expectations.

10 Deadly Shots Vol. 1 was recorded mostly live on 8 tracks (bass, drums, riddim guitar, lead guitar, piano, organ, tenor sax, percussion) and like some instrumental/dub reggae albums of the past, it’s got a theme. That theme has to do with a certain criminal element, given titles like “Bonny (sic) and Clyde,” “Dillinger,” “Machine Gun” and “Billy The Kid.” The music throughout is expertly laid pure roots and thus excellent. It’s the first 10 Ft. Ganja Plant disc to be completely without vocals and at just a hair over 34 minutes (brevity being another nod to reggae albums of bygone days) it’s the least dubwise-extended release I’ve heard from them. Neither point will diminish your enjoyment, though. Once the first militant drum intro puts the reggae into forward motion, your mind will settle into (paradoxically peaceful) thoughts of how many spliffs you could build from an actual 10 Ft. Ganja Plant and ponder why more bands don’t make reggae as good as this.