Groundation released their highly anticipated tenth studio album, One Rock, via a partnership between France’s BACO Records and the U.S.’s Easy Star Records. The band, formed in 1998 by vocalist/guitarist Harrison Stafford, has helped define American roots reggae, while building a large and loyal following in Europe and South America, where they have been a consistent major headliner and festival attraction for years. One Rock keeps their sound and legacy moving ever forward through 9 intense songs featuring complex arrangements, moving melodies, and lyrics that touch on the human condition, human spirit, and the state of the world. Listen and purchase the album on vinyl, CD, and digitally with an exclusive tee shirt here.
In many ways, One Rock can be seen as a product of the global pandemic of the last two years. During this period, Groundation became even more aware of the issues of selfishness and greed that have emerged, which they address throughout the record, while also paying tribute to the victims and honoring the many reggae legends who have left us too soon since 2020. The group’s desire to honor the “veterans” on this album was therefore obvious. Always a group to respect their elders and forebears, Groundation makes history yet again by bringing together the legendary reggae vocal groups Israel Vibration, The Abyssinians, and The Congos into the fold on the new album.
The relationship with these three bands was seeded from before Groundation was formed, through Harrison’s longstanding connections beginning as a teenager, and would continue through years of touring and sharing stages around the world. To implement these collaborations, Groundation wrote and arranged parts specifically for these unique singers, taking into account their style, range, tone, and phrasing. The track “Original Riddim” was calibrated to accommodate the talent of the Abyssinians and Israel Vibration. The Israel Vibration duo, made up of singers Wiss and Skelly, are also invited on the up-tempo heavy groove track “Iron” that closes the album. As for the Congos, who had already participated in the albums Hebron Gate released in 2002 and Here I Am in 2009, it seemed obvious for Groundation to call upon them on the eponymous title track “One Rock.”
Normally comprised of two guitars, drums, bass, piano, Rhodes, B3 organ, three horns and three harmony voices, Groundation also welcomes a classical string trio on this new album. This was a great first for the band, bringing a unique texture and emotion to the album’s first three songs. Tracks such as ‘Greed’ and ‘Silver and Gold’ venture into unexplored polyrhythmic worlds, while ‘Absolutely Clear’ and ‘Day When The Computer Done’ explore new harmonic movements. “Market Price” features a solo piano intro that leads into a frenzied brass arrangement, before turning into a slow odd-meter one-drop. The song goes on to create a world of dichotomy between the upbeat, joyous musical atmosphere and the intense lyrics that depict the megalomania behind many of the world’s leaders and the millions of people who follow their madness. The 9 tracks were recorded on 2” analog tape at Prairie Sun Studios in Sonoma Country, California.
Stafford formed Groundation in 1998, when he began a roots reggae/jazz fusion group with fellow students at the Jazz Performance program at Sonoma State University. The group’s first 2 albums (Young Tree and Each One Teach One) established their unique roots sound, while also beginning the band’s long affiliation with foundational reggae artists, as Each One Teach One features vocalist Marcia Higgs and drumming master Ras Michael. Stafford’s deep knowledge of the reggae genre led to him developing a course he taught at Sonoma State called “The History of Reggae Music,” where legends like Joseph Hill of Culture and historical icons like Abba Melchezadek (Haile Selassie’s private secretary) would come to share their personal experiences.
In 1999, while in Jamaica, Harrison met the legendary engineer Jim Fox, who was involved with the production of many of RAS Records’ most iconic releases. Fox remastered both Young Tree and Each One Teach One and recorded Hebron Gate (2002), the album that launched Groundation to international acclaim. Fox has continued working with the band on every subsequent release, helping to shape their sound on We Free Again (2004), Upon The Bridge (2006), Here I Am (2009), Building An Ark (2012), and A Miracle (2014) creating a catalog of genre-bending, deep, progressive roots reggae music. Similarly, Groundation’s artwork had a consistent look and feel, in collaboration with Stafford’s childhood friend, Giovanni Maki, creating all visual designs from the very beginning.
Through the years, Groundation has performed in over 35 countries on 5 continents. The band, which had a number of personnel changes over the years, but always built around Harrison Stafford’s leadership, continued to bring reggae into new worlds, with their last studio album, The Next Generation (2018) opening with a full jazz big band (featuring 12 horn players). This album beat out Ziggy Marley and others to win Reggae.fr’s “Best Roots Reggae Album of 2018,” voted on by over 16,000 media members, musicians, producers, and fans. The band has extensive tour dates and festivals set up for the coming year in Europe, South America, and in the USA. Tour dates can be found below!