Online since August 2002

Reggae with a Texas twang

Reviewed September 2010

By Cas Haley

Easy Star Records: 2010

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With his Buddy Holly glasses and neatly trimmed goatee, Texas-based Cas Haley looks more the country star or white bluesman than a dance-hall singer. And while there's a huge swath of blue-eyed soul to his singing, there's a lot more Kingston than Dallas, Houston or Austin in his approach. It's not Marley, mind you, but the overall vibe to his new album, "Connection," is reggae.

The Jamaican groove that Haley draws from is early, acoustic reggae – the sort of stuff the Wailers, Lee Perry and others were laying down in the '60s as they combined ska and American soul to help create what became known as reggae. There's a lot of wide-open spaces in his music; the distinctive reggae backbeat is ever-present, but often it's implied rather than overdone.

Haley's music is also refreshingly free of the kinds of lyrical dogma that straitjackets so much post-Marley reggae and even non-Jamaican ska: There is no Rastafarian worship here, no odes to marijuana or calls to Jamaican nationalism.

Instead, there are love songs and slice-of-life stories about folks making do the best they can with what life deals them.

At that, Haley isn't so different from the country-western and blues musicians surrounding him in Texas.

Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif., and was a contributor to the "Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD" (1993) and "The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues" (2005).

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