December 29th, 2011
B.C. Read - 1,000 Miles
Another non-label release from an unrecognized musician is often not the most thrilling of prospects for anyone who writes reviews on a regular basis. But B.C. Read, who resides in the Saskatchewan province of Canada, immediately grabs your attention right from the start, serving up another reminder that blues is indeed an international form of expression.
This is Read's third recording in his twenty-five year career. The program consists of eleven of his original songs, all of them good enough to make you pay attention. His expressive vocals and fluid guitar lines add to your enjoyment.
Tracks like “Didn't Sleep at All” and “The Blue Boy” bristle with energy thanks to fine support from a horn section comprised of Sheldon Corbett on sax, Kevin Marsh on trombone and Berry Radford on trumpet. The first track also benefits from the presence of Big Dave McLean on harp and a well-constructed guitar solo from Read. The latter number has the horns riding a slinky rhythm with an R&B feel. The title track features Ross Nykiforuk on organ on a steady-rolling tune that acknowledges Read's debt to Chicago's electric blues tradition. The horns drive home the funk quotient on “That's the Deal”, with Read trading the vocal lead with the sultry Wilma Groenen. Read takes a more straight-forward approach on “Number Two”, switching to slide guitar and howlin' out his distress over an unfaithful lover over a standard chord progression.
Read shows his musical versatility by moving away from the electric format on several tracks. “Jellyroll Baker” is a ribald number that finds him doing some nice finger-picking on acoustic guitar, backed by Brent Longstaff on tuba. A more dramatic shift occurs on “Rosalita”, a tune that celebrates the Tex-Mex sound with Jack Semple on acoustic guitar, Nykiforuk on accordion and Suzie Vinnick on vocals. The rhythm section of George Tennent on bass and Glenn Ens on drums provide sensitive accompaniment on the ballad “What Could Have Been”. Nykiforuk's accordion's frames a strong vocal from Read, who also adds some mournful harmonica to the track. “(Why Can't We Just) Walk Away” is Read's personal statement on the effects of war and religion. The lone cover, Neil Young's “Are You Ready for the Country”, was recorded live with Vinnick on backing vocals. The lazy pace contrasts nicely with Read's urgent vocal and taut slide guitar work.
Whether it's the band stretching out on the rousing instrumental “Diamond Bop” or Read preaching to his wife on “Train of Life”, there is plenty to enjoy on this strong release. B.C. Read gives the music room to breathe and his supporting cast refrains from showy displays of instrumental prowess, content to help Read inject enough vitality into each song that you will want to give this disc more than one listen.
Reviewer Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford. IL. He has been listening to music of all kinds for fifty years. The first concert he attended was in Chicago with The Mothers of Invention and Cream. Life has never been the same.