Sorry Canadian Country Music Association, but in the case of Johnny Reid, you are going to have to create another award category for him. Recipient of 26 CCMA awards and Six Juno awards over the past 15 years, Reid has just released a new album, titled Revival. The contents of which has absolutely nothing to do with Country music but everything to do with Stax/Motown R&B, primary musical influences of Reid when he was growing up in his native Scotland.
“Recording an album like Revival is a very organic process for me,” notes the dapper Scot whose fashion style is more in line with The Temptations than Washboard Union. “That R&B singing style comes very natural to me.
Relaxing over a pint of Kilkenny beer at the Brazen Head pub in Toronto’s Liberty Village, Reid noted that Stax/Motown R&B artists like Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye were his musical idols as a youngster. “I’m 44 years old now, but in recording `Revival’ I’m going to imagine myself back then, writing songs just like those guys. The first song me and my mate Jason Matthews wrote was “Soul Train” as an ode to that influential television show. Jason said to me, `Johnny I used to love that tv show’, and I’m like me too.”
Anyone who has seen Reid in concert recently knows that his band boasts a full complement of 12 musicians including a full horn section and that it has been a complete misnomer to label him as a Country Music performer when his on-stage persona is one of a fully rounded, adult contemporary artist. His latest album just takes that evolution into R&B one dramatic step further.
Recorded in Toronto with overdubs executed in his Nashville hometown and also in Memphis, Reid again utilized veteran producer Bob Ezrin (Kiss, Alice Cooper) with instructions to make the recording session as authentic as possible. “The whole body of work was done very quickly, we had all the musicians together in the same room. We used an old console board, old gear, vintage microphones plus session musicians who had played in that era, everything was like stepping back in time – I loved every minute of it.”
Tracks like “Soul Train, “Memphis, “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You” and “She Just Wants To Dance” will no doubt get Reid’s Tartan Army up on their feet, but like his other records, he exhibits a penchant for meaningful personal lyrics about his family. Reid reflects his fidelity with three songs about his wife Jennifer; “The Light In You, the album’s first single, “Never Love Another” (co-written by Glass Tiger’s Alan Frew) and “Blank Page”.
“I am very proud of “Blank Page,” boasts Reid. “Everybody asks me “How did you two meet and in trying to explain that, I feel that the relationship between me and my wife is a blank page, we are still writing our story and everyday is another line. The best love stories are true.”
Another song, “Heart Of A Women” is a salute to all the strong women in Reid’s life be it his grandmother, mother, wife or daughter. “I think about these things growing up in my life,” he reflected. “There’s a lyric in the song which says “the greatest gift god gave me is wrapped up in the heart of a woman” You are reminded how important that is when shit happens and life throws you a curve and you can find sanctuary there.”
“Regret” is a highly personal lyric which takes the form of a conversation between Reid and his dad ( a diesel mechanic|) “When I grew up, men went to work and women raised the kids, and then the boys went to the pub, that’s the way it was. I initially didn’t really feel like I knew my dad as a person , he was always just Da. When we left Scotland for Canada, my dad left his mother behind and when she passed away he started to cry. I had never seen him cry or show that much emotion before. I could tell he had regrets and thus I wrote the song.”
There’s other poignant songs like “Cry No More” in which Reid imagines an alcoholic woman talking to an empty vodka bottle and there’s the blues gospel spirit of “Shoulders” but overall, `Revival’ is an up-tempo effort that will clearly position Reid as a bona fide Blues R/B stylist.
“This record is for the people who supported me,” Reid acknowledged. “I wanted to make a record I could go on the road with and people can come to the show, have a laugh, have a cry, they can sing and dance the night away. I want my show to be a total experience.
With a full complement of 12 musicians on stage, tagged The Soul Providers, Reid is set launched a 44-date national tour, kicking off February 26th at the Mary Winspear Theatre in Sidney B.C. A major surprise during each concert will be the appearance of Alan Frew and his Glass Tiger mates on stage half way through the show, to perform a new collaboration Reid has worked on with the band, titled “Wae Yer Family” plus “Someday” and a montage of Glass Tiger hits which Reid has helped re-create into a new Glass Tiger album which will be released in February (on Reid’s Halo label, distributed by Warner Music Canada).
“When |I first came over from Scotland I heard Glass Tiger’s “My Town” song with Rod Stewart and I have always liked Alan Frew’s voice. So we have gotten together and when he came to me and said we should do something, we co-wrote “Never Love Another” for my album and then I worked with the Tigers on “Wae Yer Family.”
Reid has also been instrumental in the career development of Calgary’s JJ Shiplett (currently touring with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) as well as developing his own winery business and feels he has a desire and willingness to help out in developing other promising careers.
“There was a time in my life when I wished that someone like me would have walked in and helped me out,” Reid concluded. “So I feel obliged to help out anyone who shows a bit of promise. It’s the least I can do.”