Paul Reddick Sugar Bird

After years of toiling in semi-obscurity with his band the Sidemen, Toronto blues singer-songwriter Paul Reddick is finally getting the recognition he deserves on both sides of the border. Collaborations with kindred spirit/producer Colin Linden on 2001’s Rattlebag and 2004’s acoustic-oriented Villanelle helped spread the word, and his audience should expand further with this superb new disc. Reddick’s work is firmly rooted in the blues but he adds enough stylistic twists to a sometimes-tired form to keep things fresh and interesting. Diversity is further ensured via four different recording locales (Toronto, Woodstock, Nashville and L.A.) and line-ups, on three tracks apiece. Linden plays a crucial role, contributing typically fluent guitar and crisp production, co-writing ten songs with Reddick — Kate Schutt adds an assist to "Blue Wings” — and donating two solo compositions, "Later Than You Think” and "John Lennon In New Orleans.” Linden’s usual cast of ace accompanists are featured, with Garth Hudson playing accordion on three cuts. Reddick’s voice is equally convincing on the more conventional blues tracks ("Morning Bell,” "Block Of Wood”) as on the hauntingly atmospheric tunes like "I Will Vanish” and "Blue Wings,” and the full-production, horn-fuelled numbers on which he can croon with aged-bourbon smoothness. The simply gorgeous artwork and design merit mention as well. He’d better clear some more space in his trophy case. (Northern Blues)