First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2005, Volume 12, #8
Written by John Metzger
On his fourth outing Rattlebag, Paul Reddick had utilized the field recordings made by Alan Lomax as a blueprint for defining his own image of the blues, and in the process, he had tapped into something that was both primal and timeless. Rather than simply recreate his success, however, he boldly jettisoned his usual backing band The Sidemen, and although the resulting Villanelle is vastly different from its predecessor, it is an equally potent affair. Collaborating closely with producer and guitarist Colin Linden, Reddick sculpted a collection of rustic songs that pay tribute to working-class life, and its meshing of old-time attitude with modern day textures is unquestionably compelling, even if it architecturally isn’t entirely new. At its core, the music is purebred Delta blues, and Reddick and Linden merely alter the sonic shadings of their compositions in order to effortlessly and seamlessly jump from one stylistic foray to the next. The opening Winter Birds, for example, straddles the line that divides Steve Miller and Los Lobos, and by adding a dapple of mandolin, the subsequent Big Not Small inevitably conjures images of Led Zeppelin. Elsewhere, So Long, Thank You, Goodbye is well-served by its Dixieland embellishments; Five Silver Dollars settles softly into its rural, gospel-fed refrains; and through its bubbly beat, Hook’s in the Water offers both solace and escape, while nearly invoking the traditional Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad during its concluding instrumental jam. What makes Villanelle so successful, however, is the manner in which the duo never lose sight of the emotional heart and soul of their material. It’s this latter factor that is woefully missing from the endeavors by so many contemporary blues artists, and it undoubtedly is what makes Reddick’s albums — derivative as they are — so striking. ˝
Villanelle is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box