Paul Reddick

Paul Reddick
Reddick Revue: The Best of Paul Reddick

Northern Blues Music NBM0040

By Karen Nugent
June 2007

Paul Reddick grew up in a small town in northern Ontario, Canada, yet somehow got hooked on Delta blues before his 13th birthday. And in kind of a twist on the old Brits-bring-blues-to-the-U.S. (OK, Canada) story, Reddick - at the prime-rock age of 18 - had no idea who the Rolling Stones were.

But he sure knew all about Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson I, Sleepy John Estes, and Mississippi Fred McDowell. In fact, he picked up a harp at the age of 12 and had it mastered by the time he turned 15.

He formed his first band, The Sidemen, in Toronto in 1990, releasing four albums of mostly original songs while touring across the great white north with the likes of Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Johnny Winter, Koko Taylor and John Mayall.

This 18-track disc is a retrospective of Reddick’s work, and he shines with whispery, intimate vocals and powerful harp. It includes hits from his previous records, Rattlebag, and 2004’s acoustic Villanelle, along with two unreleased songs with The Sidemen, and three with Paul Neufeld’s Rhythm & Truth Brass Band. Also on board is guitarist Colin Linden, who produced much of the album.

Many of the songs on the disc are original, and Reddick has a way with deep storytelling. (His influences include poets William Blake and William Carlos Williams.)

There’s a lot of stuff going on here, and beaucoup brass instruments – trumpet, trombone, tenor and alto saxophone, even a sousaphone. Maybe too much brass.

The lead-off track, one of the best on the disc, is the well-known, “I’m a Criminal,” a hard-hitting rocker which was used in a Coca-Cola commercial last year. (Reddick’s songs have been in several movies and television shows.)

He’s got a good Delta-groove going on the next track, “2nd Street,” and “Villanelle” is a sweet, acoustic love song.

The beginning of “Big Not Small” sounds a lot like a Howlin’ Wolf harp riff, and Reddick does a great version of Son House’s “Am I Right or Wrong?” He even tackles Johnny Cash’s “Train of Love,” although the intro ends kind of abruptly.

The tunes with the brass band are a bit heavy on jazz, funk, and Latin beats, especially “Template Blues” and “Queen’s Hotel.” “Rosemary” at least has a blues feel to it.

I much prefer the tunes in which Reddick blows his harp, like the down-and-bluesy “Rattlebag,” and Little Walter’s “You Know It Ain’t Right,” which also features a hot guitar solo by Kyle Ferguson from The Sidemen.

Reddick positively sizzles on harp in the instrumental, “The Sidemen Boogie,” the last track on the album. He delivers again on “Waitin’,” a danceable, syncopated song.

“Round This Time of Year” is a slow ballad which doesn’t really have a place on a blues album, also a problem with “Winter Birds.” (Perhaps it has something to do with living in Canada and being depressed in the winter?) “Trouble Again” sounds like it belongs in the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, and “Hook’s in the Water” leans toward the country side of the street.

Revue is a good showcase of more than 20 years of Reddick’s music. A talented, innovative, and versatile musician, Reddick delivers roots, jazz, blues, folk and country styles.

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