Paul Reddick & the Sidemen Rattlebag

Canada's best bet for the prestigious W.C. Handy Awards is found with this bold release of "smart" blues. The well-seasoned Reddick and his Sidemen have woven a haunting work that celebrates the pre-war country blues of John Estes, Mississippi John Hurt, the Mississippi Sheiks and the popular string band music of the '20s and early '30s. Typically, the Sidemen inject the project with powerful guitar and harp-driven grooves to add a dark, brooding energy throughout. The well-schooled Reddick's originals draw heavily from his knowledge of Alan Lomax's Library Of Congress field recordings, while his lyrical style stems from a variety of sources, including the poetry of William Blake and First Nations dream poems, coupled with the observational storytelling ability found in all folk-blues. Reddick's distinctive vocals are also the key to the Sidemen's sound, mixed well forward for an intimate effect that adds to the foreboding nature of the disc. Reddick's harp delivers a wall of sound, or authentic Chicago wail, on demand. A favourite track is "I'm A Criminal," which begins as a sluggish boogie and builds to incorporate wry rhythmic twists and impressive solos. Kudos to Colin Linden for his production part in this dark blues excursion that combines rich Delta roots with rock undertones. (Blue Storm)