Paul Reddick - Reviews

 

 

Villanelle

Paul Reddick

"Paul Reddick has the kind of low down bluesy, roots folk style that soothes the soul and speaks to the troubles of the human condition. Reddick is an exemplary songwriter in the world of modern blues; he was even nominated for the W.C. Handy songwriting award for "Rattlebag" in 2002.

"Reddick draws his influences from such legends as Kenneth Rexroth and William Carlos; walking in their footsteps is no easy task, but Paul Reddick manages to rise to the occasion track after track. This is not to say that he mimics these artists, but his influences are clearly drawn here. Reddick has a way with music that is all his own, and he can stand his ground with his own compositions such as "
Luck In Love," a gritty sounding, zydeco-blues tune that defies traditional blues composition and is simply groundbreaking in the industry. "Villanelle" explores blues with an ear for the unusual."

-John Shelton Ivany Top 21
Issue #263
April, 2006 

 
   

"Paul Reddick's Villanelle is one of those records that just grows on you and keeps the listener interested on several levels. First of all, the instrumentation is a nicely balanced blend of acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, harp, bass, and drums. Reddick's varied vocal approaches range from an introspective conversational voice akin to Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska" era, to a gruff almost Tom Waits-like approach elsewhere, to a more mellow bittersweet approach that resonates with a quiet, lived-through authority. Reddick states in the liner notes that he spent a year traveling and roaming the back roads of life looking for adventure and experience. There is a haunting sense of blues tinged nocturnal poetry throughout the immensely satisfying Villanelle party because Reddick's approach is so understated that the music sounds natural and experienced. There are some moments here that are a little too loud and distorted for these ears, but that's a small complaint considering the subtle perfection of songs such as "Round This Time of Year," "Blue Eventied," "Winter Birds" and the title selection. Paul Reddick's Villanelle is definitely worth tracking down."

-Michael Dominici
Offbeat Magazine
May 2005 

 
   

"Acclaimed producer and blues musician Colin Linden has noted that fellow Canadian Reddick is "one of the most original and inventive singer- songwriters in blues today." So, it's no surprise that Linden lends a heavy hand as producer and player on Reddick's latest release. Imagine a rocks and gravel voice intoning beat poetry lyrics alongside the eerie, raw Delta vibes of Fred McDowell, Son House or Sleepy John Estes and you'd be close to the muscular yet expressive folkloric sound Reddick and Linden create.

"At their best, songs like the pulsing, euphoric title tune (a centuries old form of work song), a Gospel-suffused, slide guitar braced "
Five Silver Dollars" and moody tour de forces such as "Some Afternoon Alone" and the gloriously understated "This Time of Year," Reddick and Linden (who plays all of the guitars and mandolins) stitch a melody-rich quilt that mesmerizes as it constantly surprises. A trio of drummers (Bryan Owings, Gary Craig and Stephen Hodges), bass player Larry Taylor and John Dymond along with Richard Bell's soulful, long-noted piano and organ work all add visceral sonic textures to select songs.

"Discreet employment of distorted scratchy 78 rpm record reverberations, various local loops and Reddick's deep-toned, slurred harmonica fills also effortlessly embellish this criss-crossed landscape of American traditional music without getting in the way.

"Linden is front and center on two originals. In fact, his blurred, ethereally energized "
Hook's in the Water" is one of the album's highlights. His growling, lowdown "Dog Catcher" powerfully recalls Chicago songwriter and bassist Willie Dixon and that 1957 South Side sound."

-Gvon T
Sing Out
Spring 2005 

 
   

"Three years after receiving critical raves for Rattlebag (W.C. Handy-nominated, Toronto Blues Society's album of the year), Canadian harpist, vocalist, and songwriter Paul Reddick returns with a project that beats his previous one.

"
Villanelle could vaguely be defined as coming from the pre-war blues tradition, but that would only begin to describe Reddick's unique approach. Like Ry Cooder, Reddick uses the structure of older blues to fashion his own sound, layering instruments subtly to paint a portrait that shimmers with feeling. Truly an album whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts, each track on Villanelle is immaculately crafted to fit the larger picture. Sure, there are changes in tempo and feel throughout the 15 tunes, but there's also a cohesiveness that melds New Orleans second-line to Mississippi acoustic sounds and the edgier attack of Chicago blues.

"Riffs repeat as if on loop, shifting from the lowdown dirt funk of "
Big Not Small" to the mandolin/harp-driven train-time clatter of "Luck in Love." The effect is not unlike a dream as Reddick's emotive gritty voice and harmonica drift through but seldom dominate the mix. The music is notable for its space; instruments and vocals are added only as needed. As with Charlie Musselwhite's recent work, you sense this was conceived as a conceptual piece as opposed to a collection of tracks. To be fair, Reddick shares the disc's success with producer/guitarist Colin Linden, whose contribution is so substantial that his picture greets the listener as they open the slipcase. The dup adds a small group of sidemen for drums, bass, and keyboards, but leaves the sound stripped down, primal, and natural.

This is not an album that jumps out at the lisener; it's charms seep in gradually through repeated spins. Like the Sirens of The Odyssey, it entrances, hypnotizes, and beckons you back for more."

-Hal Horowitz
Blues Revue
January, 2005 

 
   

"Paul Reddick has a style all his own: rough, downtrodden, most of all, inventive. His take on the genre of blues has a sultry Saturday night or a lamentable Sunday morning feeling to it. Paul's lyrics have a close-up framing without being myopic. There is a whisper in your ear quality that lends itself well to this collection of rural delta blues. On "Big Not Small" his strong and haunting voice comes through on a harmonica heavy day in the shade. The focus on the forms of the blues and his vocal production intensely connect Paul to the material and to the listener. He seems to be the bridge between the Alan Lomax recordings, down home folk and the modern world; creating a conduit to another time with these songs.

Other than the able throated vocals, Paul lends his Harmonica's complex rhythmic patterns to the classic four on four bouncing of delta blues.
Villanelle breaks new ground in blues by incorporating a variety of new sounds and in that process has created the absolutely most fertile ground in blues today. The disc maybe a digital format but the songs come out like ghost songs on an old reel to reel. Paul Reddick's use of studio effects and unexpected equipment achieves a raw juke joint blues, which channels the souls of blues masters into every note, beat, and growl of Paul's voice. One cannot ignore the man who was influenced by William Blake, John Estes and Alan Lomax, and creates blues like the one's on Villanelle."

-John Shelton Ivany Top 21 #207
December 24th, 2004 to December 31st, 2004 

 
   

"Much like a character that Alan Lomax would be doing a documentary on, harpist Paul Reddick comes out of the mists of time from the pre-World War Two era of blues and that famous blues crossroad......Toronto, Canada?

Hey, why not, as over the years the sounds of that era have influenced musicians all over the world. And Reddick appears to have kept a sharp ear on the earlier masters as the acoustic blues of "
Winter Birds" give way to some down home harp work during "Big Not Small".

Kathleen Edwards melts a plaintive violin into the fiber of the title piece while Richard Bell's piano and Reddick's harp quiver like a two car blues collision during the opening "
Luck in Love," though that might not be a bad thing.

"
So Long, Thank You, Goodbye" sounds like a Dixieland outtake from some Leon Redbone project and "Round this Time of Year" takes us to the time and place that Reddick is trying to visit. Despite "Burning Fuse" turning into a downhome Delta slide show, "Five Silver Dollars" is where Reddick throws everything but the plantation outhouse into the tune via Reddick's harmonica and vocal loops, Colin Linden's slide guitar work and Richard Bell's B-3 organ.

Slow and dreamy in some parts and a low rumble of groove touched with funk in others,
Villanelle is a perfect vehicle for the subliminal time travelers in the audience due a vacation from these modern times."

-Jazz and Blues Report
November/December 2004

 
   

"Thereís so much more to praise, but space is insufficient. However, Round This Time Of Year, with its whispery and delicate phrasings is deserving of special bestowal--probably as compelling a piece as anything Reddickís ever done. The subsequent track Five Silver Dollars is every bit as moving. Twin beauties!

...Anyone who feels that the best in contemporary acoustic Blues and Roots isnít emerging from Canada just isnít paying attention."

-Gary Tate
LivinBlues
November, 2004 

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"Reddick is a talent with a unique vision of the blues. He loves the raw, acoustic, pre-war sounds and makes them the focus of his music. But rather than attempt any slavish copy of the style, he - along with producer/guitarist Colin Linden, who deserves as much praise as Reddick, being an integral part of the sound - comes up with an individual take on it, which can range from the soft gospel of "Five Silver Dollars" to "Winter Birds" with its nagging riff and wonderful mix of acoustic and dirty electric guitars. At its best, like with the title cut or "Stones of Indigo," this proves to be a remarkably inventive album, taking clichés of the genre and turning them upside down. And if this was as far as it went, it would be more than adequate. But Reddick's lyrics, influenced by a wealth of poets, are pure gold, literate and mesmerizing, while still falling very much within a blues format. He's also a formidable harmonica player, although he uses it sparingly - a word that describes much of the disc. Linden injects plenty of space into the proceedings throughout, letting the songs breathe. While the scratchy pre-war sound that's used at times might seem like a gimmick, it actually creates an atmosphere that permeates the entire record, and quite justly. An excellent, and very original, piece of work."

-Chris Nickson
All Music Guide
November, 2004 

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"With Villanelle, Paul Reddick's back on Northern Blues with a solo CD that harkens back to the prewar blues of Sleepy John Estes and two of my favorite bluesmen nicknamed Mississippi: John Hurt and Fred McDowell. A few years ago, Paul's outing with The Sidemen, Rattlebag, was one of my favorite CDs, and it also garnered him widespread nominations from Canadian music awards, including the 2002 Juno and Maple Blues Society competitions. South of the border, the band was up for a W.C. Handy award for Best New Artist. On Villanelle, producer Colin Linden is back on guitar, and he's recruited Richard Bell on keys (Janis Joplin), Stephen Hodges on drums (Tom Waits, John Hammond) and multinstrumentalist Jeff Hermes (Rick Holmstrom, Rod Piazza). The CD's title is taken from the style of an old work song, and Paul updates a classic blues form for the 21st century. Listen to "So Long, Thank You, Goodbye" or "Hook's in the Water" and you'll hear a century of worksongs in Paul and Colin's hands. Villanelle will propel Paul Reddick into the finals for next year's blues awards, and I hope he crosses the stage at the Handys, the Maple Music Awards, or at the Juno awards for Villanelle."

-Eric Steiner
Cosmik Debris
November, 2004 

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"In every line sang, rollicking piano line, driving drum beat or acoustic strum, Reddick forces the expansion of the blues/rock/Delta/roots musically landscape.

"Poetic by nature, the songs on
Villanelle seem well adjusted to serving as a musical companion to the Faulknerís Sound and the Fury or a jumpy William Carlos Williams verse."

-MFS
Aftertaste
November, 2004 

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"For the best variety and sound in Blues and Americana to be heard, Villanelle is the album to head straight for. You'll find yourself playing it over and over again, and never grow tired of listening to it. 10 out of 10."

-Ray Tyrell
Blueswax
October 27,2004 

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Toronto's Paul Reddick is the most literate of bluesmen anywhere, a quality that, unfortunately, is not usually taken as a compliment. For example, the theme and title of his latest record is taken from a classical form of poetry, the best known version of which is Dylan Thomas's hit Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night, a good number but hard to find on the jukebox.

Be that as it may, Reddick has worked with Canada's premier roots musician, Colin Linden, put out an excellent collection of ballads and boogies reflecting on and honouring regular folks.
Six was the Six is a gambling song, Waves is about hitting the road. Dog Catcher is a freedom song, while So Long. Thank You. Goodbye is exactly what it says.

Reddick calls it all an homage to "the mysterious and beautiful world" of pre-war blues and historic music, which is close enough. Take time to listen to the poetry.**** 1/2"

-Norman Provencher
Ottawa Citizen
October 23, 2004 

 
   

"Paul Reddick is one of the most inventive and passionate bluesmen working today. His uncanny ability to bring the feel of the pre-war masters to life and transplant them into a contemporary setting guarantees he'll be a force in the blues nation for years to come. Check out "Villanelle" and get acquainted with Paul Reddick, truly a Renaissance man of the blues!!"

-Sheryl and Don Crow
Music City Blues Society, Nashville
October,2004 

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"Singer, songwriter and harp player Paul Reddick, steps away from fronting the Sidemen for this unusual set of songs that are steeped in rural blues forms of the deep south, influenced by various forms of poetry and filtered through the atmospheric, often rumbling studio techniques of producer Colin Linden. In fact, the album probably belongs as much to Linden ­ who provided the guitar, bass and mandolin tracks, co-wrote most of the songs with Reddick and wrote two of the songs himself ­ as to Reddick. Standouts include Five Silver Dollars, where Reddick's vocals and harp playing mix seamlessly with Linden's slide guitar and heartbeat-bass while Richard Bell's organ provides colour in the background, and the pretty Villanelle, which is nicely enhanced by Kathleen Edwards's violin. ***1/2"

-Mike Regenstreif
Montreal Gazette
October 21, 2004 

 
   

"Bluesman Paul Reddick follows up his highly successful 2002 effort titled Rattlebag with even better session. Villanelle has a wonderful down-home feeling and itís hard to put this disk away.

"Ten songs result from a collaboration of Paul Reddick and Colin Linden and five are by Linden alone. The writing is superb and projects a modern mood reflecting pre-war Delta blues. Some tracks including
Luck In Love have a homey country feel and will have crossover appeal.

"Reddick and Linden are joined by some top rhythm players and former
Full Tilt Boogie piano man Richard Bell. Janis Joplin fans have high regard for Bellís work with the late pop idol.

"Itís not often that a CD has more great tracks than mediocre efforts. This is one of them! My personal favorites include
Dog Catcher, Blue Eventide, Six Was The Six and Luck In Love. The winter holidays are growing ever closer and this album would make a fine gift for the blues fan on your shopping list. He or she will thank you!"

-Richard Bourcier
jazzreview.com
October, 2004 

 
   

"With most modern blues players either trying unsuccessfully to replicate the greats (notably, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf) or going through the 12-bar motions with little more than tedious solos, these days, blues is not a very interesting genre.

Enter Canadian Paul Reddick. Following up 2001's "
Rattlebag," Reddick takes the blues into the 21st Century.

He's got the spirit and the chops and, with significant help from guitar/producer Colin Linden, has come up with a deep, swampy sound that's both new and old -- not an easy feat. "
Winter Birds" starts off with a repetitive acoustic guitar lick and a snare drum cadence before adding a fuzzy electric guitar line.

Ethereal, hypnotic and infectiously simple, Linden combines his penchant for Delta blues with a page from the Daniel Lanois production book (check out "
Hook's in the Water"). With straight-up blues the exception ("Waves"), he also has the good sense to think of "blues" in a broader sense.

The acoustic title track (with guests Larry Taylor on bass and Kathleen Edwards on violin) is a charming folk song, "
Five Silver Dollars" will remind you of Taj Mahal (in a good way...) while "Luck in Love" is a murky, rolling rocker driven by Reddick's harp."

-Michael Lipton
Charleston Daily Mail
October 14, 2004

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"Reddick's colorful use of natural landscapes in this setting gives his audience a lot to chew on. He lets the lyrics settle in, as he stretches out on a solemn harmonica oath. It's country music for the average guy and gal."

-Jim Santella
All About Jazz
October, 2004 

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"Harmonica virtuoso, singer/songwriter Paul Reddick, a staple of the Canadian blues trade and a W.C.Handy nominee, serves up something less hard bluesy and more rustic, raw and rural in his latest offering. Villanelle bears all the trademark tricks and tics of veteran roots music producer Colin Linden - lots of acoustic instruments ( slide guitars, mandolins, stand up bass ), rough harmonic edges, a live-off-the-floor style, faux ancient vocals, and a one-mic sound > that emulates the timeless quality of the field hollers and prison songs recorded by the Lomax family in the 1930's and 40's. That Reddick claims he owes as much as a songwriter to the poetry of William Blake, Kenneth Rexroth and William Carlos Williams as he does to the elemental country blues of Mississippi Fred Mcdowell and Sleepy John Estes may have more to do with hip marketing than fact, but there's no denying Villanelle is compelling, ingenious music, a roots classic from the get go."

-Greg Quill
Toronto Star
October 14, 2004 

 
   

"Paul Reddick is a studier of long-gone prose and song, but is no duplicator. With strong participation from guitarist and producer Colin Linden, the Toronto musician has fangled new from old, taking from deep-rooted Americana to fashion an imaginative, rich record, one that is sunset in colour and fearless. There are straight blues, but they are in the minority and not as ear-catching as the soulful, easy-striding Blue Eventide and Stone of Indigo, both with vocal looping and watery guitars for texture. There is little fault throughout -- Reddick's harp play is attractive, though not abundant; the vocals suit the songs, sounding hollow and distant on some, aggressive or intimate on others. The lyrics intrigue. On an album that takes its name from an obscure verse form, it is Reddick's poetry that is in motion."

-Brad Wheeler
Globe & Mail
October 8, 2004 

 
   

"According to Paul's liner note, a villanelle is an ancient form of work song. He and producer/collaborator Colin Linden have roamed far and wide through pre-war blues and other forms of "long gone music" for the snippets of lyrics that, it seems, generated new snippets and gelled into compositions over the course of a year of travelling and recording. Few of the songs tell a story, they mostly describe a state of mind or set a mood and for this the music is, of course, inseparable. And what music this is. From Sidemen-esque electric blues to marvelous re-creations of twenties string band sounds to moody electronic soundscapes, the marriage of music and lyrics is always effective. The title song and "Waves" have the string band music with the latter a lovely blend of mandolin, dobro and harp. "Winter Birds" & "Big Not Small" are the best "Sidemen" songs. The concluding "Some Afternoon Alone" is almost effect-less, a "new" Skip James song with just voice & guitar. Reddick is in excellent voice and Linden outdoes himself on the various stringed instruments he channels through a studio. His usual band mates are on hand when necessary. Watch for a Release Party on November 1 at The Torch Bistro (upstairs at Top `O The Senator) but get this CD as soon as you can. I think it's a new adventure in blues."

-John Valenteyn
Toronto Blues Society
October, 2004 

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"Bluesman Paul Reddick sings about the timeless topics that have traveled with American journeymen for centuries... Reddick's colorful use of natural landscapes in this setting gives his audience a lot to chew on. He lets the lyrics settle in, as he stretches out on a solemn harmonica oath. It's country music for the average guy and gal."

-Jim Santella
All About Jazz
Autumn, 2004 

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