The Canadian blues? A brief and belated appreciation of Paul Reddick.
That I can name two or three Canadian bluesmen may have as much to do with the years I spent across the border in Seattle as it does to the attention I’ve paid the subject. They would be, then, the late Jeff Healey, and Colin Linden. Jim Byrnes, it turns out, is from St. Louis, but lives in Canada. He is also an actor — “Wiseguy,” and “Highlander,” mostly — and is somebody who I came close to pushing into the pages of ND, except that timing and Peter’s general indifference to the blues worked against him. Or something.
The occasion for this theoretically brief post is an 18-track summary of a long career titled Revue: The Best of Paul Reddick.
Wait, let me go back a second. Here’s a quick theory about Canada and the blues which somebody (Paul Cantin, probably) will doubtless shoot down. It goes like this…the blues are a Southern American invention, linked inextricably to the soil of the Mississippi Delta, and, further back, to the rhythms and sounds of Africa. It migrated to many places across North America, following jobs notably to St. Louis and Chicago, transforming into jazz in New York. Like that, painting broadly. And then, refracted through the cracked lens of post-WWI England — a desperate, broken, dirty, hungry place in its own right when the Stones and the Yardbirds and Graham Bond and John Mayall and Fleetwood and Mac and Green and Perfect were all coming up — it spun back into the U.S. as a different thing. Far enough askew from its origins to be recognizable, but different enough to be a full-blown creative reinvention.
Canada…was too close to the source. Too far from it to connect in a spiritual way (and I’m sure somebody smarter than me can point so some brilliant Canadian bluesman from the 1930s or some such, and so I stand prepared to be corrected). And so the notion of Canadian blues is inevitably derivative both of its U.S. origins and its U.K. refraction.
To Mr. Reddick, then, who was raised with the original blues through his own stubbornness and dumb luck, and missed the Blues Invasion until the seed had set. Revue summarizes his work with several bands — the Sideman, a straight-forward hard blues ensemble, Colin Linden (relocated to Nashville now, but, still…), and the Rhythm & Truth Brass Band. The Linden tracks are acoustic. Assembled as an 18-track body of work, Revue works better than I suspect any single album in any one of those single settings would do. It’s nicely varied, well paced, both bold and subtle.
And the songs…one despairs of good new blues songs, but these are at least tolerable and sometimes better than.
It’s not going to change the world, no more than these few words here will do much for Mr. Reddick. But in these times, well, we can all use some good blues to leaven the day.
And now, I’m off to tear the covers off some magazines. (Not our old one. It’s just part of the return process at the bookstore.)
Y’all be good, play nice, and remember to tip your server.