Canadian harpman Paul Reddick and his band, The Sidemen, have experienced phenomenal success in Canada, thanks to their unique style and innovative, original material that extends beyond the traditional boundaries of the blues. Reddick is a self-taught musician who's innovative music and lyrics are influenced by the classic blues of Sleepy John Estes, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Leadbelly, combined with the poetry and storytelling of writers such as William Blake and Eudora Weekly.
Rattlebag is the latest release on Northen Lights Music and the fourth overall. The music on Rattlebag is fresh and, at times, very unique. Throughout the 16 song recording, Reddick is backed by a strong group of musicians including, Greg Marshak (bass), Vince Maccarone (drums), Kyle Peterson (guitar), Richard Bell (keyboards) and Colin Linden (guitar, mandolin & dobro). The multi-talented Linden also produced the CD and provided one original song, "Blind River Bound." The other 15 songs are originals written by Paul Reddick and are admittedly influenced by the previously mentioned artists along with Mississippi John Hurt and the Alan Lomax field recordings.
"P.R. Jubilee" opens Rattlebag with an extremely unique a capella version of a song entitled "Pearl River Blues," that appears later on the CD with a full band arrangement. "P.R. Jubilee" is comprised of two separate melodies and two sets of lyrics intertwined into a distinctive musical package. This is followed by "Sleepy John Estes," a song that is again filled with innovative lyrics and characterized by a hollowed out, old-style recorded blues sound. "King o' the Zig Zag" and "One Way Trip" are both excellent songs that feature some powerful slide work by Colin Linden, along with some fine piano by Richard Bell on "King o' the Zig Zag."
One of my favorites on Rattlebag is the previously mentioned full band arrangement of "Pearl River Blues." The bass line clearly drives the song, providing a hint of the work song feel generated by "P.R. Jubilee" earlier on the recording. Fans of harder edged blues, reminiscent of that found in the North Mississippi Hill Country, will enjoy the trio of "Dreamin' Dreamin,'" "Rattlebag" and "Smokehouse," which offer up more one-chord "hypno-boogie" and other rural style blues sounds. Reddick's harp dominates these tunes with some strong backup by Richard Bell's keyboards and Kyle Peterson's guitar. Reddick's harp work is also captured my attention on "06/19," an abbreviated instrumental that came out of Reddick's casual experimentation with some special effects.
Many of Reddick's songs are inspired by his life experiences in Canada. Among the songs that are set in various Canadian geographic locations are "Pinegum," "Sleepy John Estes," "Pearl River Blues" and "Elizabethtown." By his own description, "I'm A Criminal" was inspired by a job Reddick once had delivering trout to a fish processing plant in the Guelph jail, where he became friendly with a number of inmates. All of the songs are well done and uniquely Canadian mixed with more classic American blues styles.
Rattlebag provides sound evidence that the praise given to Paul Reddick and the Sidemen is justly deserved. The band's distinctive style, providing what Reddick refers to as "hard blues for modern times," is on the cutting edge of the blues. I strongly recommend the CD to any blues fan. To learn more about Paul Reddick and the Sidemen and/or Rattlebag, visit Reddick's website at www.thesidemen.com or the Northern Blues Music website at www.northernblues.com.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.