Paul Reddick upsets conventional wisdom in the popular music field. How many so-called “bluesmen” do you know who are passionate about early American music; love bird watching and draw inspiration from the language of poetry? He is not a walking contradiction, or a piece of fiction. He is a grounded, articulate, witty musician who understands the role that beauty — such an evocative, often unfashionable word — can play in the art that he creates.
Fronted by Reddick’s deep, urgent voice and his complementary harmonica playing, the support musicians give the songs a depth that is unusual, not only in traditional American music but in popular music as a whole.
Starting with his devotion to early American music, Paul Reddick listened closely to Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin’ Wolf, and picked up the harmonica at the age of 12 — and had mastered the instrument by the time he was 15. Later, his tastes widened to include early country music, jazz of all kinds, and a whole variety of other “roots” music.
Reddick formed the groundbreaking blues band The Sidemen in Toronto in 1990, releasing three albums of original material. He and his revolving group of players spent a decade hammering out the blues across Canada and back and forth across the United States. Paul Reddick and the Sidemen released the critically acclaimed Rattlebag on NorthernBlues in 2001, as he moved the emphasis toward a solo career. Produced by roots music authority Colin Linden. Praise came from both sides of the border, along with nominations at the W.C. Handy Awards and the Juno Awards. The band also won three Maple Blues Awards in early 2002, including Album of the Year and the nod for Reddick as Songwriter of the Year.
It was followed by 2004’s Villanelle, a quiet, calmer, more reflective album that earned even more critical applause. The widely acclaimed album continued re-styling the traditional past, sidestepping convention as it searched for new possibilities in blues music.
In 2007 NorthernBlues released Revue, an 18-track collection of pieces from previous albums, with some rarities and unreleased tracks added for good measure. Suddenly, an artist with no “hits” had a “greatest hits” album that emphasized and underlined a maturing musical philosophy.
2008’s SugarBird, his fourth album for NorthernBlues, is once again produced by Linden, who adds his superlative guitar playing to every track. Linden co-writes the songs with Reddick, and the album includes two of Linden’s compositions.
In addition, Reddick’s music has been used in a variety of television shows and movies, and — surprisingly, and he still doesn’t know how it came about — in a Coca Cola commercial that has been seen on U.S. TV for two years. Reddick continues to perform in Europe once or twice each year, where the critical applause for his work equals that at home in Canada. He plays festivals across Canada, and is in demand as a session player — he’s appeared on recent CDs by Kathleen Edwards, Colin Linden, Susie Vinnick, Treasa Levasseur, David Baxter and others.
Paul Reddick’s new record is Ride the One.