For over two decades, Paul Reddick has been forging a unique identity in the blues world, blending pre WW2 acoustic blues with folk music. He takes it to a higher realm through his daring rhythmic sense married to highly literate lyrics and has been accorded the title "The Poet-Laureate of the Blues."
Sugarbird is the follow-up to his awarding winning Villanelle, which pushed the boundaries. It, too respects blues tradition while shaping them in ways that resonate to modern ideas. It’s a difficult trick, but Reddick pulls it off seamlessly. Back again, acclaimed producer/blues musician Colin Linden wears two hats, producer and omnipresent stringed instrument presence (acoustic guitar, National Steel, mandolin, banjo).
Linden wrote one of the most intriguing tracks "John Lennon In New Orleans." Actually, those words are never uttered throughout the song, but I assume that Reddick feels a musical kinship with Lennon. And it’s not far removed from the type of introspective material associated with the late Beatle’s solo years. If this is Reddick’s way of saluting him, then mission accomplished. The "New Orleans" part is obvious, this song has the Crescent City written all over it. Linden’s brilliant steel guitar work and those highly atmospheric horns add essential shadings.
Another standout track is "Later Than You Think," which swings effortlessly. That boisterous feel is enhanced by trumpet, twin saxophones and trombone that fits everything together like a glove. But it’s Paul’s cool relaxed vocals and brash confident harmonica that turn it into a grand slam. "I Will Vanish" typifies the low-key acoustic gems coming at you like dazzling butterflies on wing. It confounds at first, but seeps into your consciousness like a beautifully-remembered dream. If this were a picture, it would be an impressionistic canvas speckled with gauzy hues shaped by Reddick’s languorous vocals, all perfectly juxtaposed by the primitive, percussion-heavy groove that yields a mesmerizing sense of tension.
"Blue Wings" follows and the existing mood is maintained, namely Reddick’s particular world of undulating complex rhythmic patterns, intimate vocals and poetic gifts. The effect is quite sublime. The small delight of a sugarbird seeking out a flower is transformed into a shimmering creation with music and poetry meshing into a glorious whole. The instrumentation is equally exquisite, ranging from Chris Carmichael’s oriental-like string arrangement to Linden’s delicately plucked notes from an array of stringed instruments. Devilment" and "Block Of Wood" churn along with an electrical current that harks back to Paul’s tenure fronting one of Canada’s most adventurous blues bands, The Sidemen.
All in all, "Songbird" is another proud accomplishment for Paul Reddick. His name virtually evokes the the term "cutting edge." It’s a release that earns my wholehearted recommendation. Check it out and you’ll understand why.