By: Jeremy Fleischer
2.5 out of 5 STARS
Denver-based reggae band Red Sage’s new single, “Cruel World,” begins with a catchy piano melody that’s decidedly un-reggae. It takes a full minute before the song shifts to the upstroke guitar and bouncy bass most associate with reggae. And once it does, the reggae elements of the piano riff become apparent on second listen. So it goes with Red Sage.
For many, Red Sage will sound like a hybrid of reggae and other styles. There are soul horns, wah-pedal guitar solos, and R&B vocals. But at its heart, Red Sage music stays more true to the roots of reggae than much of the music out there passing as reggae. Today, more traditional reggae music has to have its own name: “roots reggae.” Much contemporary reggae draws more from EDM and hip-hop than roots reggae. But Red Sage generally keeps these influences to a minimum. Instead, they showcase the soul influences that inspired the original reggae artists.
The success in the Red Sage sound can likely be credited to the varied backgrounds of all the players. Each comes from a different style of music, and the resulting reggae sound is compelling. What’s missing, however, is distinct songwriting. “Cruel World” is what it seems: The lyrics say the world is cruel and more love is needed. No insightful ideas are offered. To me, it seems as if the band has paid great attention to the playing, and the songs take a backseat. With more attention to songwriting, this band could be exceptional.