Paul Reddick and the Sidemen's fourth album, "Rattlebag," was inspired and influenced by the field recordings that Alan Lomax made for the Library of Congress. There is definitely a raw, emotive feel to much of the album, even though it is an electric album. The songs, which are all originals all measure up well too, either as background grooves, or paying detailed attention to the lyrics.
The album opens with the almost acapella--there is percussive accompaniment--of "p.r. jubilee," which certainly captures the attention of the listener. It is not really musically representative of the album, but its spirit and mood is maintained throughout. This is heartfelt, emotional stuff, and it is epitomized by the following "sleepy john estes" (all the titles are in lower case). The band achieve a terrific muddy sound, and the repetitive guitar riffing calls to mind R.L Burnside at times, maybe with a touch of Jon Spencer in there.
For many of the tracks here, it is pretty much a case of the band locking into the groove, early into the track, and then keeping it going. It sounds like Reddick sings through the harp mic in several places, which was a trick that Papa George Lightfoot used to great effect. It works well here too, and Reddick--a self-taught musician--shows that he can blow the back off it any time he feels like it.
"Rattlebag" demonstrates that Paul Reddick and the Sidemen are a force to be reckoned with. There is plenty here to keep those who like their blues a bit on the raw side, but still like things to chug along. The closest comparisons that spring to mind are R.L. Burnside, perhaps Billy Boy Arnold, and maybe even a bit of Sugar Blue. It all makes for good listening, and means that "Rattlebag" is an album worth tracking down (try the Northern Blues site, www.northernbluesmusic.com, for starters).
This review is copyright © 2001 by Gordon Baxter, and Blues On Stage at: www.mnblues.com, 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.