For reggae credibility, a musician can't do much better than George Wesley, who will perform live at 10 p.m. May 29 at Rumrunners Pub and Eatery, 341 Market St.
Wesley has played with Bob Marley's band, the Wailers, Jamaican legends Black Uhuru and Jimmy Cliff and Carlos Santana, an honor that Wesley said was "definitely a high point." "It was cool," he said. "I played with him in 2003."
Originally from Factoryville, Wesley has performed and recorded since the '70s, playing right through the monumental changes the industry has withstood. He's released music on 45s, LPs, cassettes and made his first CD, "Forward," - get ready to feel old - 20 years ago.
But, while his career has spanned the 20th and 21st century, his influences go back to the days before recorded music.
Wesley is the descendent of Charles Wesley, who penned "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," among other hymns.
When asked about the relation, Wesley said, "It's big shoes to fill. When I found out about him and what he did, I realized that it's a lot like what I do. I'll twist other people's songs up and put in my own lyrics."
The fact that Wesley feels a connection to his ancestor goes beyond blood and music and straight to faith.
Everything Wesley does is, first and foremost, centered on his belief.
"[Faith] is an important part of life in general," he said. "I feel blessed that I have the ability to make music and gather people together so that they can have a good time."
But he's quick to say that he doesn't condone how religion is used in the world.
"It scares me that religion causes so many wars and controls politics the way it does," he said. "I like to be careful not to insult anyone and to inspire everyone."
The way he does that is through his music, which has been said to be the best reggae since Bob Marley.
"People get confused [about reggae] because there's so much stuff out there," he said. "I'm getting back to Bob Marley. I love Marley because there's so many melodies in the music."
He also loves it because the genre is influenced by everything. Reggae is a combination of African, Indian, and American music, he said.
Plus, "you can be spiritual at the same time as rocking everybody," he said.
Wesley's rocking hasn't gone unnoticed. He was named 'Best Singer-Songwriter' in the 2008 Diamond City Readers Poll.
About the honor, Wesley said, "That was a big surprise to tell you the truth. I didn't even know I was in the competition. It's always cool to be respected for what you do."
Wesley started performing music when he was a kid, playing for his parents. Wesley's father, George Wesley Jr., was a country western musician. He said that there were always instruments around.
"Some of my first performances were playing songs so [my father] could dance with my mom," he said. "My grandfather was a musician as well, but not a professional."
As a professional musician, Wesley has been approached by record labels for years but he repeatedly turns them down to stay independent.
"The companies want the artists to do all the work so they can make all the money," he said. "That's why I'm happy to be on my own. Nobody tells me what to do and when to do it."
As his own boss and out on the road, Wesley tries to make each venue he plays the most important one.
"Every place is my favorite," he said. "It's in the moment. The music plays and the energy of the people plays you."
Even without a band, Wesley still makes a big sound by employing, as many musicians do these days, a looping technique.
"I'm using a boss RC 50 loop station, which has drum patterns that I manipulate in live performances," he said. "I just choose them and set the tempos and build a band through the use of my MIDI guitar."
The "band" that he builds is called the Small Axe Orchestra.
"I call it that because I get tons of effects for my keyboards, guitar and synth so it really gives the illusion of an orchestra."
Wesley's reggae style and cool persona should fit well in the Caribbean atmosphere of Rumrunners, where he wants everyone to have a good time and hopefully find something in the music that sparks them to make their own.
"I hope they see what I'm doing and try something themselves," he said. "I hope I inspire people to do what they want to do."
For the show, Wesley will be accompanied by his wife, Annette, who plays percussion and sings back-up. For more information, call Rumrunners at 322-0303.