Johnny Reid (Open Road Recordings/Universal Canada)
Canada has released some of the most interesting country music in the last few years. However, unless you live there or near the border, you’ve most likely not heard much of it. One of the most dynamic and versatile artists to appear recently is Johnny Reid. Originally from Scotland, Reid began stoking the fires of a country music career a decade ago. After being in Nashville a few years, Reid signed to Canada’s Open Road Recordings. His first album, “Born To Roll” brought him big star success and even found one hit “You Still Owe Me” get recorded by Canadian band Emerson Drive (it is a recent hit in the States for them as well) and Ty Herndon. Reid’s sophomore release, “Kicking Stones” has been in rotation in my ipod and stereo for many weeks now and is as good as any album from the states.
Fans of T. Graham Brown and Joe Cocker should really enjoy the soul/country/rock style employed by Reid. Even with mandolins and fiddles propelling “Out Of The Blue,” There’s a distinctly worldly flare to a song that chronicles unexpected happiness. From the na-na-na-na’s to the pan flutes, there’s a distinct ‘international’ flare to a song that has lyrics that discuss unexpected happiness. “Love Sweet Love” features a horn section that at times recalls Memphis and other times Motown. It’s not ‘traditional country’ in any sense but Reid sings the hell out of the song.
There is often a misconception about a man with deep, whiskey-scarred vocals not being able to sing with range. Like Joe Cocker, Johnny shows on the beautiful and simple ballad “Thank You.” Primed to be a wedding anthem, the song has a vibe that’s not unlike “You Raised Me Up.” It soars and only a real singer with good range can sing a track like this. Only two songs on the record weren’t co-written by Reid and one of them is his cover of the early 80’s Tom Jones hit “Darlin’.” Johnny Reid simply knocks the song out of the park. In fact, it’s a re-defining remake.
Collin Raye previously recored “What I Did For Love” and where his version came off as ‘busy,’ Reid’s version is rough-around-the edges but with smooth flourishes courtesy of producer/co-writer Brent Maher. The instrumental breakdown, missing from the Raye version, is simply beautiful with soaring fiddles and accordion and mandolin. It’s a nicely, done ballad sung with conviction. Speaking of singing with conviction, Johnny Reid simply knocks the album ending title track out of the park. “Kicking Stones” is an autobiographical song that chronicles Reid’s life. The melody features acoustic guitars, b-3, an orchestra and the topper being beautiful bag pipes. Johnny Reid is a distinctive vocalist who, unlike Cocker and T. Graham Brown, writes most of his material. “Kicking Stones” is a record from a distinctive artist that deserves to be a star in the USA.