Numerous rockers have incorporated reggae or ska into their work; white singers who are actually reggae-oriented are the exception rather than the rule. But occasionally, one comes across a white artist who has a reggae orientation and sings it convincingly. Someone like Cas Haley. That is not to say that Connection is the work of a reggae purist; Haley's forte is reggae mixed with pop/rock and soul, and anyone who expects Connection to be a hardcore, Rasta-oriented roots reggae album like, say, Burning Spear's Marcus Garvey or Peter Tosh's Legalize It will be disappointed. Haley doesn't have dread locks, and he would rather write about romantic love than Haile Selassie, Rastafarian ideology, or ganja smokers in Trenchtown. But as far as crossover reggae goes, this Texas-based singer/songwriter does have a certain earthiness about him. Connection sounds organic rather than slick, and Haley comes across as someone who is seriously immersed in reggae; not someone who has only a casual interest in reggae and decided to throw in some reggae beats here and there. When Haley performs, one gets the impression that yes, he's into pop/rock, but has also spent a lot of time absorbing the old-school lovers' rock grooves of artists like Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, and Freddie McGregor (lover's rock, for the uninitiated, is a term that refers to the apolitical side of '70s and '80s reggae; Isaacs' "Night Nurse" and Bob Marley's "Waiting in Vain" are definitive examples of classic lovers' rock). And he clearly shows an awareness of some of the pop/rock groups that have incorporated reggae, such as the Police and UB40. Although original material dominates this 2010 release, Haley also includes a reggae-pop remake of Alicia Keys' "No One" -- which is a logical pick for him given the fact that he has crossover leanings but is also going for a soulful, down-home expression. Connection won't appeal to reggae purists, but listeners who like their reggae mixed with big doses of pop/rock and soul will find it to be an likable outing from this unpretentious Texan.
Alex Henderson, Rovi