Paul Reddick + The Sidemen – Rattlebag
P.R. Jubilee: P.R. is short for (the) Pearl River, which appears in a short story by Eudora Welty called The Wide Net, in which a character proclaims "The excursion is the same when you go looking for your sorrow as when you go looking for your joy." I built another story around that line. This a cappella version was an experiment in combining two melodies (and two sets of lyrics) on a four track machine. The second melody/lyric is an excerpt from a prison work song, by Ervin Webb. I recorded this to teach the band the song, but Colin encouraged me to include it on Rattlebag.
Sleepy John Estes: This is one of sever al songs in which I placed the story in a rural scene - in this case, in the rolling hills north of Lake Ontario around Port Hope, at night, in the car, driving with the girl, smoking, listening to blues. "All the world in silhouette, with Sleepy John Estes and a cigarette." Colin's microphone magic produced a wild early Howlin' Wolf-type sound.
Pinegum: This song also takes place out in the country, though in the winter. I chose this landscape for its connection to the pre-war country blues landscape. There is an intimacy in every rural culture; people are connected, they speak in a shared vernacular, and they are closer to nature, the land and the weather. There is also an opportunity for great solitude. These are conditions that many pre-war blues lyrics and very many poems reflect. I give directions to a particular place in this song: "Let's take #9 across from highway 28 to Elizabethville, where we can tempt our fate."
King o' the Zig Zag: The structure of this song owes something to Mississippi John Hurt; the lyric, to a dictionary of slang. Richard Bell performs another of his masterful piano parts on this song and Colin plays an amazing vibro-slashing guitar solo.
One Way Trip: Doctor Ross meets Magic Sam for a good hard boogie. Colin plays a speed down slide guitar bass.
Pearl River Blues: This is the full band version of P.R. Jubilee. I wrote this about three days before we went to the studio; what you hear is the first performance of this song. This has an unusual structure, which it owes to its work song origins. Greg plays a fine upright bass part.
Blind River Bound: Colin wrote this beautiful song for his new record, Big Mouth, but we borrowed it from him first. I thought we should have something pretty on our CD, and it is. The song also happens to take place in small town Ontario. Incidentally, Colin recorded his version with Bruce Cockburn.
Trouble Again: I wanted to do a song in a sort of stringband/Leadbelly style, and I had an unused, somewhat abstract lyric written in terza rima verse form; it's a spiraling rhyme scheme invented by Dante to help give a "going down" feeling to the Inferno. I interrupted the flow a little with a bridge part which I took from Sleepy John Estes' Everybody Ought to Make a Change, and we ended up with a pretty peppy tune about trouble. A few months after we did this, A Man of Constant Sorrow, came out on the O Brother Where Are Thou soundtrack, and I thought the two songs shared some connection.
Scufflewood: This song is about dancing to the blues. I was listening to the first Mississippi Fred McDowell record, done at his house, and you can hear his wife and friends in the background quietly dancing and having a good time. The groove grew out of a children's song, Sea Lion Woman, from a Library of Congress anthology. I wonder if people kept quiet in the Juke joints, to allow the musicians to be heard?
Dreamin' Dreamin': This song rides the one; it's a one-chord song. The lyric is influenced by some dream poems I read in a book called In the Trail of the Wind, American Indian Poems and Orations. There is a great resemblance between many of these poems and blues lyrics. Richard uses a perfect organ sound on this song.
Rattlebag: It's the name of a poetry anthology, which was the first book of poetry I had read. The rattlebag itself was described in one of the poems as a noisy, unconventional instrument - and I guess that's a way to describe our record. It's a beautiful word, and I suppose onomatopoeic as well. And it's not even in my American Heritage dictionary. "Drivin' in your 66 turquoise shade of green, slow goes this beauty box, life is but a dream."
06/19: I was fooling around, trying out a Memory Man delay box unaware that Colin keeps the tape rolling, the 19th of June is, amongst other things, the day Robert Johnson recorded Hellhound on my Trail.
Smokehouse: A hard jukejoint boogie with Kyle pounding out a hypno groove on the '36 National. "I hold my hand up to the moon, rollin' at the smokehouse, this nineteen of June." Elizabethville: This song takes place in the fall, and it's another part of the Pinegum, Sleepy John Estes, and Pearl River stories.
Elizabethville is a beautiful little town: you can also get there by taking #9 east from the 115 highway.
I'm a Criminal: I had a job once delivering trout to a fish processing plant in the Guelph jail, and I got to be fairly good friends with a lot of the inmates. I asked one guy what he might do when he got out. He said: "Well, my brother offered me a job doing drywall, but I'm a jewel thief."
Tumblin Down: This is a late night lonesome love in vain blues where the past and present can't avoid one another.
1. P.R. Jubilee - 1:07 2. Sleepy John Estes - 4:47 3. Pinegum - 3:36 4. King O' the Zig-Zag - 4:12 5. One Way Trip - 3:54 6. Pearl River Blues - 3:22 7. Blind River Bound - 5:19 8. Trouble Again - 3:02 9. Scufflewood - 3:33 10. Dreamin' Dreamin' - 5:00 11. Rattlebag - 3:59 12. 06/19 - 0:41 13. Smokehouse - 2:57 14. Elizabethville - 3:55 15. I'm a Criminal - 5:56 16. Tumblin' Down - 4:33
Paul Reddick (vocals, harmonica) , Greg Marshak (bass) , Vince Maccarone (drums) , Kyle Ferguson (guitars) , Colin Linden (guitars, mandolin, dobro, harmony vocals) , Richard Bell (piano, organ)
1. AllMusic by Tom Schulte
Paul Reddick and company dig into the pre-World War II rural blues repertoire. They come up with Delta gems for their tough, electric blues sound. They use studio effects and unexpected equipment to achieve raw, analog visitations of the past blues masters on almost every track. Colin Linden produced and adds signature guitar to this exquisite example of visceral urban blues with clear juke joint roots featuring Reddick's harmonica.
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