Raves and wave-offs... Technically, Island Romance, the new CD from Houston's Irie Time, could be considered a rerelease -- that is, if its like-named 1991 antecedent was ever officially available in the first place. Like the biracial reggae quartet's other past releases, that first record was sold only at the group's performances. But now, a somewhat revamped Island Romance is available via more accepted retail channels.

If anything, the CD warrants attention because several of its tracks were recorded in Kingston, Jamaica, with Earl "China" Smith and Squidley Cole of Ziggy Marley's Melody Makers. The disc includes revamped tracks from those '91 sessions as well as a handful of newer tunes recorded locally.

Too bad Irie Time didn't get Ziggy himself to lend a hand on lead vocals, which are awkward at best, strained at worst. And while Island Romance's grooves manage a suitable hemp-basted simmer, the production is unduly slick, bringing to mind the most banal UB40. As for the lyrics, they're about as mindlessly apolitical as party prose comes: "Been a long time since you met a guy that was taking his time / These other guys you know been takin' you for a ride / May I suggest that you just take some time to know me." Ouch.

Here's a better suggestion: Avoid the album and take some time to get to know the band live. During performances, its problems melt away in the soothing, new-Caribbean riddems. As good a chance as any arrives this Sunday, when Irie Time performs on the Houston International Festival's World Stage.

A Dogg and his Master... It looks like one-time Houston resident Master P finally has his man. The New Orleans-based rapper/producer has just ironed out a deal with Death Row Records that brings Snoop Doggy Dogg to his No Limit Records. Details have not been disclosed, but it's been said the agreement -- which hands over Snoop's "exclusive recording services" to No Limit -- involves a healthy lump-sum payment and the assurance that Death Row will participate financially in the rapper's future releases. Both labels are distributed by Priority Records.

Etc.... The veteran guitar-and-fiddle trio BlueWing celebrates the release of its self-titled debut with an in-store performance at Cactus Music and Video Saturday afternoon, followed by a show at Anderson Fair that night. With some 20 years of experience between them, Dan Crook, Jeff Trathen, Kelly Lancaster and Sandy Buller sure know their way around the more intricate points of the folkie-acoustic idiom. They also have fine taste in cover material, as evidenced by their heartfelt rendition of the Tom Russell tune (what else?) "Blue Wing," on the new CD.

Here's a rare treat. In a special, one-off live appearance sponsored by Urban Beat magazine, G9, a project headed by producer Rob Bell and Grammy-winning Erykah Badu writer/producer Jah Borne Jamal, performs at Cafe Elysee Sunday. It's hard to know what to expect from a pair of studio rats, but something tells me it's bound to be interesting.

Six bands for six bucks? Not a bad deal -- especially considering the cause. Westfield by the Railroad is hosting the Sunday soiree, the proceeds of which go to benefit liver-transplant patient Melissa Kimzey. The lineup includes the Fab V, Frizz Bee, Dash and the 12th of Never, 1 Spirit, Green Onions and Jimmie Hunter and Fair Game. At the very least, it's an opportunity to see six acts you've likely never heard of.

-- Hobart Rowland

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