Paul Reddick has a personal stake in the future of the blues.
To keep the musical genre relevant to younger generations, the seven-time Maple Blues Award-winning Ontario musician put his money on the table by starting a new blues prize.
Reddick donated $1,000 for the Cobalt Prize for original composition from his own pocket. He also kicked in the $250 each awarded to first- and second-runner-up tunes.
“Blues needs new blood, and not only among its audiences but also in its repertoire,” stated Reddick, who performs on Wednesday, Feb. 11, at Fratters Speakeasy in Red Deer.
He hopes his personal investment will encourage younger artists to use the blues as a “palette” from which to formulate new music that goes beyond the usual 12-chord blues shuffle.
“I’m by no means a traditional blues singer,” said Reddick, who believes the template created by Lead Belly and Robert Johnson should be a springboard from which new and original sounds are created. “I’d like to broaden its definition, broaden the genre.”
Reddick was thrilled with the response his Cobalt Prize received from across the country. More than 110 original tracks were submitted, everything from straight-up Chicago blues to more boundaries-pushing varieties.
The winning song, selected by a jury, was Hwy 17 by Digging Roots, a band from Barrie, Ont. The husband and wife duo of Raven Kanetakta and ShoShona Kish blend folk-rock, pop, blues and hip hop influences. They previously won a Juno Award for Aboriginal Album of the Year in 2010, for the album We Are …, and are nominated again in 2015 for their latest record, For the Light.
Reddick doesn’t care what the $1,000 prize money is spent on — heck, he said the duo can even spend it on groceries.
The Toronto-based musician believes the prize has succeeded by getting Digging Roots music more attention and radio play, which was really the point.
“I think I’ll do it again,” Reddick said, of personally donating to the 2015 Cobalt Prize.
Another thing he’s anticipating this year is the release of his new album, Beyond the Blue, in the spring.
It follows his well-received 2012 Wishbone CD, and is also being produced by Colin Cripps of Blue Rodeo — which explains why the project has taken three years to come together. Reddick said there are two touring schedules to consider. “We record for a couple of days and then have three weeks off. …”
The new recording will contain songs the musician was “compelled” to write over the last few years. “I (write) all the time and I’ll be continuing to write whether I’m making a record or not,” said Reddick, whose latest tunes fall somewhere between blues, rock “and a dreamy kind of place.”
Reddick has been experimenting with a synthesizer and has been co-writing poetic lyrics with his latest songwriting partner, Agnieszka Polakowska. The words are full of imagery about “travel, longing and the stuff I usually write about,” said Reddick. “They are mysterious and playful. I always try to evoke a sense of place or time.”
He’s looking forward to performing in Alberta with guitarist Steve Marriner (of Monkey Junk) and a backup band.
Even folks who don’t like the blues should give his show a try, said Reddick. “They’ll hear the kind of blues music they don’t expect.”
There’s a $5 cover for the 7:30 p.m. concert.