East Side Slim
Reddick – Sugarbird
Paul Reddick is a noted Canadian
blues and roots artist who really should have a
larger profile in the United States. Paul recently
won Songwriter of the Year honors in the 2009 Maple
Blues Awards, which is the Canadian equivalent of
our Blues Music Awards (Handy’s.) Most of
you are already familiar with Reddick’s work
via a Coke-Cola commercial from a couple years back.
Remember the Coke commercial that featured the song
“I’m A Criminal…set to swipe and
steal…”? Well, that was Reddick’s
work. It’s from his 2001 NorthernBlues CD
Earlier in his career Paul
worked with a group called The Sidemen. This was
a tough blues band, based out of the Toronto area
if I’m not mistaken. This eventually morphed
into Paul Reddick + The Sidemen (although Reddick
mostly tried to deflect the attention from himself).
As the years have gone by Reddick has branched out
and begun working with Colin Linden, another noted
Canadian musician who is also a noted producer.
Linden’s hand is all over the Sugarbird CD,
as he played guitar, wrote a couple of the songs,
co-wrote the rest (mainly) with Reddick, as well
as being involved in producing, recording and mixing
There are some fantastic
musicians performing on this CD in addition to Reddick
and Linden. Some names some of you may be familiar
with include: John Whynot (piano), Hutch Hutchinson
(bass), Stephen Hodges (drums/percussion), Garth
Hudson (accordion), and Darrell Leonard, Joe Sublette,
Jim McMillen and Jim Thompson on horns. This album
struck me as being a love song, or lullaby, to someone
very special to Mr. Reddick. Don’t let that
description scare you away, as the music here is
highly interesting and completely engrossing. Reddick
paints pictures with his lyrics, as well as with
the melodies of his songs. This is a beautiful album
in many ways, a beautiful piece of work, and a beautiful
headphones album. Now, on to the songs…
1. Morning Bell: -- We start the
album off in fine fashion here, with a folksy-bluesy-rootsy-shanty
of a tune. It’s driven along by the accordion
work of Garth Hudson (The Band) and the acoustic
rhythm guitar of Colin Linden. Just so he’s
not left out, Paul Reddick throws a few harmony
lines in here-and-there along with Hudson’s
accordion. This song sets the tone of the entire
suite of songs to follow.
2. I will Vanish: -- This is an
atmospheric track, with lots of echoing guitar lines,
sparse yet vibrant snare & cymbal work, stabs
of electric guitar, all of it building on itself
as the song plays out. The entire time Paul keeps
his vocals in a talk-sing laid back mode, keeping
full control of the proceedings. This is a nice
track, and it sounds amazing through headphones!
3. Devilment: -- This is a fun
track, built on a backbone of J.B. Lenoir’s
“Mojo Boogie”. It’s got a little
rougher sound than most of the other tracks on the
album, with a little more swagger. This would fit
in a juke somewhere with no problem. It’s
a lot of fun.
4. Blue Wings: -- “Mary had
a red dress…red dress…” This one
is a beautiful song, with the CD’s title coming
from the lyric. Listen with ears wide open in order
to be rewarded with all sorts of sounds, some obvious,
many much less so. Yes indeed, a very beautiful
5. John Lennon in New Orleans: --
This song title may very well refer to the sound
of the tune, as I can imagine (get it?) a John Lennon
ballad mixed through New Orleans-style R&B.
To my ear, I really hear a 1960’s country-western
ballad rolled all around in a New Orleans vibe.
The song has a definite C&W piano line running
throughout, with added touches such as tubular bells
(chime sounds), horns, and percussion that almost
sounds like muted tympani.
6. It’s Later than you Think: -- This
one is a jivey, swingin’ cool track with a
sound based in 1940’s big band swing, yet
thoroughly modern. Paul’s relaxed vocals and
Colin’s distorted chording work much better
than you’d expect, and the song has nice horn
charts. Listen closely and you can hear bluesy piano
running underneath it all, and to keep things bluesy
Paul takes a nice little harp solo in the later
part of the song.
7. Breathless Girls: -- With this
song we have a beautiful – but not syrupy
– ballad. The New Orleans vibes drips from
the tune like Spanish moss hangin’ from a
giant old tree. Paul’s atmospheric harp work
adds to the mood, as does the muted trumpet.
8. Wishing Song: -- This may be
the catchiest new song I’ve heard all year
– I’m completely serious about that
statement. If you can listen to this one without
singing along AND without hitting replay on your
CD player then you must be a mean one, Mr./Ms. Grinch.
Honestly, listening to this song gives me chills,
it’s that good – and I had probably
listened to this song 30 times (no joke) by the
time I wrote this review. It’s unassuming,
relaxed, but is incredibly interesting to listen
to. Listen closely people, listen for accordion,
12-string and national guitars, and harp. Geez,
what a cool, beautiful tune!
9. Every Temptation: -- This song
is a nice little love song, loping along with a
bouncing rhythm track and with Paul’s laid
back vocals. Even though Paul is Canadian, this
track could fall comfortably in the “Americana”
genre (a genre label that I really don’t care
for, for what that’s worth…) The song
just has this gentle vibe, but all the while it
maintains your interests. It’s amazing how
the sounds are all layered among each other, as
you will hear different things with every listen.
Climbing Up the Hill: -- This song is a
slow, gentle, ballad, featuring only accordion,
acoustic guitar and vocals. It’s a very pretty
song, and it fits in well with the overall theme
of the CD. The CD seems to me to be a lullaby of
sorts, or a love letter if you will, to someone
very important to Mr. Reddick.
11. If By This: -- This tune probably
has the darkest feel of any song on this album.
It’s very atmospheric in nature, with heavily
echoed single-note guitar lines and vocals, very
sparse percussion and bass, and melancholy sounding
strings. The strings lend the song a vaguely Appalachian
feel at times.
Block of Wood: -- Well, we’ve come
to the end of the CD. That made me a little sad,
as I wasn’t ready for it to end, kind of like
when you’re making love to that special someone
you care deeply about and the two of you reach that
point just short of, well, you know, and don’t
want that feeling to end. Yeah, sort of like that.
Anywho, this tune is closer to the sound Paul had
on some of his past CDs, harder edged, somewhat
dissonant, very bluesy, lots of harmonica. The song
takes you down to the jukes, but still fits the
theme of the CD, as Paul sings of his heartfelt
feelings for that one special girl of his. She might
not have always been very good for him, but she’s
always been GOOD for him, if you get the drift.
This sound of this CD is quite difficult for me to
describe fully in words; you will just have to trust
me and give it a listen for yourself. It is an amazing
piece of work, very poetic in nature, a treat for
the ears and most definitely a viable contender for
contemporary blues album of the year.
been a big fan of Mr. Reddick’s work for years
now. He never stays in one place too long musically,
with the sound of his albums varying greatly over
the years. Some things that always remain constant
are great songs, great musicianship and great production
values, and that’s certainly the case with
Just so everyone knows, no, it’s not a straight
blues album, whatever that really means. It is very
bluesy, and anyone who appreciates great music will
no doubt fall in love with this CD. I’ve tried
it out on a couple friends of mine, and they all
gave it Thumbs Up! It’s now time for the rating
to drop on this CD. STLBluesometer = 5.0 –
yes, that’s right, 5.0. The only mistake you
could make with this album is not purchasing it
for your collection!
more information about Paul Reddick, visit: http://www.paulreddick.ca.