radical son 1

 

Matt Shea will self-identify as “gnarly”, “tubular”, and “bitchin'”

There’s nothing new about Radical Son’s musical canvas, reggae and dub having become immensely popular in Australia and New Zealand since the turn of the millennium.

But the dude’s voice — a sustained sweetness typical of Polynesian soul underwritten by an invitingly dusty timbre — is quite unlike you’ve ever heard before. It makes for music that easily slips into the background before the flexing delivery and refined songwriting have it hurtling back towards you.

Maybe it’s the man behind the voice. At 38, David Leha is older than he looks but then you suspect he’s seen more than many men twice his age. In his late teens he binned a promising rugby league career, spending 18 months in various New South Wales prisons — nine in solitary confinement — and when he finally returned home he took with him a flourishing heroin habit (which he finally kicked for good just last year).

It’s there on a cut like ‘Human Behaviour’, Rad tackling his own demons without offering pat solutions. “It gets hard just to control myself / Don’t know if I’ll ever change / The way I will be tamed”, he sings. In that sense it’s soul music, a kind of redemption to be found simply in the delivery.

Radical Son will likely fly under the radar in Australia. A half-Aboriginal, half-Tongan soul man isn’t the kind of thing to take by storm the country’s hopelessly over-regulated commercial radio market. But ‘Human Behaviour’ and debut album Cause & Affect (out next week) are that good you suspect he’ll thrive on the independent fringes before gaining traction overseas.

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