JOHNNY REID BACK IN TOWN

From Scot­land to Nashville to Syd­ney.

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN COOKE THE CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD

Long a fan favourite in Nova Sco­tia, in part for his Scot­tish roots as well as his plat­inum­selling records, Johnny Reid is back on the East Coast with a dif­fer­ent kind of show this week.

On Satur­day, he will be at Syd­ney’s Cen­tre 200 af­ter hav­ing per­formed Mon­day night in Hal­i­fax.

The singer’s 49-date Re­vival Tour is a rolling soul re­view com­plete with 13-piece band and a raft of new tunes pow­ered by a life­long love of clas­sic R&B.

There’s al­ways been a soul un­der­cur­rent run­ning through Reid’s sound, which only be­came more pro­nounced once he moved his fam­ily to Nashville a few years back.

His 2015 al­bum “What Love Is All About” delved into that muddy Mis­sis­sippi wa­ter where coun­try mu­sic and a Mem­phis groove in­ter­min­gle, with cov­ers of tunes by fa­mous gen­re­blenders Tony Joe White and Char­lie Rich and pro­duc­tion by Cana­dian rock mix­mas­ter Bob Ezrin, who fa­mously put the pol­ish on records by Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel and Kiss.

On his lat­est re­lease “Re­vival,” Reid tapped Ezrin again to help bring his songs to life, only this time they were go­ing for a full­bore soul sound with a two-day live-in-the-stu­dio ses­sion, with a lineup of Nashville pros who can play both sides of the street.

It’s easy enough to cap­ture a soul­ful sound, if you’ve got the right play­ers, but the onus is on Reid as the man with the mi­cro­phone to do some se­ri­ous dig­ging to find the emo­tion to put it over the top. There are sin­cere love songs like “Heart of a Woman” and the good-time party anthem “She Just Wants to Dance,” but Reid goes further by cast­ing his mind back to child­hood mem­o­ries for the heartrend­ing al­bum closers “Cry No More” and “Re­gret.”

The for­mer is about a woman’s bat­tle with the bot­tle, while the lat­ter con­cerns want­ing to be a bet­ter par­ent with­out los­ing sight of his own fa­ther’s sac­ri­fices, taken di­rectly from Reid’s own life­time ex­pe­ri­ences.

“I’d writ­ten these songs awhile back, but I’d never been brave enough to put them on a record,” he said. “I can ex­plain that: I don’t know that these songs would have fit on an­other record be­cause they’re so highly per­sonal.

‘“Cry No More’ is about al­co­hol, and keep­ing it a se­cret, and it gets to the point where the woman in the song is singing to the bot­tle, ‘I don’t want to cry no more/I don’t want to be the one left empty on the floor/I don’t want to fall asleep with you ly­ing next to me.’

“I just wanted to get that song out there and this was the per­fect record for it.”

“Re­gret” was writ­ten just af­ter Reid’s pa­ter­nal grand­mother died in 2009, which marked the first time he ever saw his own fa­ther cry. Af­ter his fam­ily moved to Canada in the 1980s, his fa­ther never went back, but putting his past be­hind him came with a cost.

“All of a sud­den, my granny passes, and she’s not there any­more, and I could tell he was so full of re­gret,” Reid re­calls. “When I was young, my Dad worked away a lot, es­pe­cially af­ter so many of the steel mills and other places closed, which re­sulted in my Dad not re­ally be­ing there a lot of the time. So he had a lot of re­gret about all the things that he missed. Johnny Reid will be on stage at Cen­tre 200 in Syd­ney on Satur­day.

“And then my first boy was born and I looked at my Dad in a whole dif­fer­ent light. I was re­spon­si­ble for this baby and for the first time in my life I un­der­stood what he must have felt like be­ing a young fa­ther in his late teens when I was born.”

In many ways, it’s the song­writer’s job to find those things in their life that cause the most pain or bring the most joy and share them with an au­di­ence that can re­late to those feel­ings too. But with some­thing like “Re­gret,” Reid didn’t want it to seem like he was air­ing his fam­ily’s dirty laun­dry in a song and says he “wasn’t brave enough to put it on a record be­fore, I didn’t want to hurt my Dad’s feel­ings.

“He said, ‘If you think there’s a lot of peo­ple out there who feel the same way as me and could get a wee bit of com­fort from this song, then I say you should go and record it.’

“So that’s why I put it on ‘Re­vival.’”

Reid’s cur­rent run of shows also gives him a chance to share his love of Cana­dian pop veter­ans Glass Tiger with his au­di­ence, bring­ing the band be­hind “Thin Red Line” and “Don’t For­get Me When I’m Gone” out on tour as his spe­cial guest af­ter he pro­duced the new al­bum “31.”

The singer be­friended Glass Tiger front­man Alan Frew at a char­ity event af­ter learn­ing they grew up just a few miles down the road from each other in La­nark­shire, out­side Glas­gow.

At the same time, Reid con­fessed the band was one of the first Cana­dian acts he be­came a fan of af­ter cross­ing the At­lantic, and talked about work­ing to­gether on a project that has just now come to fruition.

“We talked about it and I thought I could re­ally bring some­thing to the ta­ble for them,” said Reid. “They came down to my place in Nashville, we hung out, and I was re­ally hum­bled by the fact they put a lot of trust in me. A lot of the songs, I just asked for the lyrics and sat down and picked out the songs that I just loved based on the words. Then we set about to find ways to mag­nify the lyric with the mu­sic and they were to­tally cool about that.

“It was great to work with re­ally tal­ented guys on that level, I think some­times they for­get who they are, Glass Tiger were it to me when I first came to Canada, “My Town” was the clos­est thing I’d heard to some­thing from my town.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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