VILLANELLE (Northern Blues) Paul Reddick
Poetry and songwriting have long been contentious allies. No matter how many books of lyrics are proffered as literature, or how many reams of verse are set to music, poems will never be great songs and songs will never be great poetry. Though they often meet in the middle through rhyme, rhythm, imagery, and love of the sonic side of words, they remain two distinct entities. Song lyrics lose much of their power without the accompanying music, while unmodified poems make for awkward tunes.
Fortunately bluesman Paul Reddick understands this distinction. True, he named his record for a poetic form (used most notably in "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas), and admits to being lyrically influenced by poets like Kenneth Rexroth and William Carlos Williams, but the songs on Villanelle are just that--songs. What Reddick receives from poetry is a more abstract than linear approach, and a way to avoid "my woman, she's so mean" cliches. He fits his images neatly into semi-standard blues forms with the ease of someone who understands those forms intimately. Fellow Canadian Colin Linden's playing and production successfully tread a line as tricky as that between poetry and songwriting; maintaining an honest, live blues feel while employing modern touches like looping Reddick's vocals for rhythmic effect, processing drums and overdubbing instruments.
"Blue Eventide" is emblematic of the record's style. "Eventide" is a term less likely to be associated with Willie Dixon than with Wordsworth, but combined with "Blue" and sung over a wordless vocal chant redolent of an Alan Lomax prison recording, it melds with Linden's moody tremolo guitar and Richard Bell's soulful organ to create a blues brew that is pure pleasure.
With Villanelle, Reddick and Linden join the list of Canadians (The Band, Fred Eaglesmith, Ray Bonneville, Daniel Lanois, Amos Garrett, etc.) who have revitalized American roots music and fed it back to the land of its origins. Michael Ross
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