Cas Haley joins Toubab Krewe tonight in Steamboat |

Cas Haley joins Toubab Krewe tonight in Steamboat

Nicole Inglis

— Friday wasn't the best day for Cas Haley and his touring partners, the band Toubab Krewe. Their Dodge Sprinter had broken down in Salt Lake City and would cost thousands of dollars to fix.

Haley missed his family back in Dallas, but he knows the road traveled by musicians is a bumpy one.

"It's love, life, pain, fear — all the things you learn about when you're young and get to experience when you're older," Haley said. "I love it, both the good and the bad."

The good happens when he's on stage, wearing his humanity on his sleeve using his soft, pop-reggae beats and crisp voice to express the ups and down of life.

Haley, runner-up in the 2007 season of "America's Got Talent," opens for the West African-influenced jam band Toubab Krewe tonight at Ghost Ranch Saloon. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $5.

Haley, who impressed Piers Morgan, Sharon Osbourne and David Hasselhoff in front of millions of TV viewers, said being on the show offered exposure. But the soulful singer-songwriter turned down a large record deal with Sony Music Entertainment, avoiding what he thought would be a "cheesy" record.

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Instead, he recently signed on with New York reggae label Easy Star to produce his 2010 album, "Connection."

"It's tough, I don't know," Haley said about his choice. "I just reach inside and have faith and hope, and I've been taking care of by some divine thing my whole life and it seems like I always did what I believed in."

On this three-week tour, Haley teamed up with the percussive jam rock band Toubab Krewe, a quintet of East Coast boys who have traveled to West Africa durinng their careers to learn about the historical and emotional roots of music.

Haley and Toubab's values seem to intersect in the appreciation of the emotional gravity of music performance, setting the tone for on-stage collaborations and sit-ins throughout the tour.

"They're really, really different," Haley said about Toubab Krewe. "I think they're one of the more original bands I've gotten to hook up with and tour and become friends with. The thing that sets them apart is how good of dudes they are. They're really good people."

"Toubab" means foreigner in Mali's Bam­bera language, and Krewe is the Cajun spelling of "crew." The combinations reflects the band's world influence discovered on trips to Guinea and Mali, where percussionist Luke Quaranta discovered how musicians in Africa played a different role than musicians do in America.

"Essentially, they're historians and storytellers and culture-bearers, and they pass down the musical traditions," Quaranta said. "It has deeper meaning in their culture than just entertainment."

While he knows they can't replicate that value in their home country, he said they project those ideals through the use of African instruments and storytelling with rock, blues, psychedelic and mountain-grass tendencies.

"We definitely try to project joy and expression," he said. "And freedom and a kind of a cultural sensibility for people to try to connect the dots between the things they're hearing that they've never heard before and things they maybe have heard before."

Quaranta said touring and spending time with Haley has been a great experience, complimenting the singer's voice and vibes on their collaborations.

Without prompt and without hearing Haley's comments, he, in turn, called his touring partner a "really good dude."

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