are somewhat intertwined
Reda and the Portland blues
grip is loosening on early evenings, a fact with no bearing
on the interior of the White Eagle. Warm tapestries and framed
memorabilia from the structure's biker-bar days climb the towering
brick walls walls that absorb the forever-twilight glow
emanating from the dim sconces. It looks the same here, day
and night. Except on most Sundays at 7 p.m., the joint might
not be this packed.
Reda: thoroughly real, totally satisfying.
Lots of adults who have to get up and go to work
tomorrow can enjoy tonight's early show, but they'd probably
attend if it was 10 p.m. on any weeknight, too.
I see two reasons for this: first, Portland's
blues fans seem wildly committed to keeping their family-like
community going. And second and this reason has a large
bearing on the first they know they are going to get
an astounding show.
Albert Reda hops onto the Eagle's small stage
in a slick-looking black sportcoat and slacks, with a slick
black little Danelectro electric bass, a big change from his
usual upright acoustic.Backing Reda are three other heavyweights:
guitarists Terry Robb and Alan Hager (tonight, both play acoustic),
plus drummer Jeff Minnick.
All the players have their own reputations and
careers, yet since they often selflessly back up each other's
efforts, things are somewhat intertwined.
While Reda plays with a number of regional acts,
this is his first turn in the driver's seat. The amazing synergy
between Reda and his friends makes for a fine ride.
There is seemingly no effort, and definitely
no artifice involved from these consummate pros, just rocking,
semi-acoustic blues from guys obviously enjoying themselves,
playing like a well-oiled machine.
Robb and Hager juggle duties, trading solos back
and forth and harmonically grounding the songs. Robb's singing
slide solos find him either cannily scanning the audience or
getting totally lost in his work, with either state producing
excellent sounds. Hager contributes equal character and soul
to his peppery solos and back-porch strumming. Their solos sometimes
converge like playful twin snakes before slithering apart again.
Reda's position at the microphone necessarily
brings the rhythm section front and center, where he and Minnick's
rock-solid, air-tight pulsations set the train rolling through
Reda originals and well-chosen covers.
"Crossroads" escapes Clapton's popular
riffing clutches, becoming a harmonic exercise of compelling
passion and building intensity. Meanwhile, "Little Wing"
gathers dusty authentic beauty.
Reda's tasteful and stylish bass work shows that
he has nothing to prove, save bringing passion, energy and fun
to the show. "Brickyard Blues," an Alan Touissant
song from Reda's new CD, points out two of his greatest strengths:
the material he chooses and his voice. It's a voice that fits
over his songs like a warm, cozy sweater; tough, like leather
patches on the elbows, but soft, too.
Reda spends much time playing for friends, but
when word gets out about his own stuff, he'll have to claim
more time as his own. The honest enjoyment he demonstrates in
this night's thoroughly real, totally satisfying set is the
type of stuff many differing music fans can support not
just fans of NW blues.
Catch Albert Reda and friends:
March 8: Viscount Ballroom, with the Woolies
March 15: Mock Crest Tavern, with Terry Robb
March 16: JazzBones (Tacoma, Wash.), with Lily Wilde
April 12: Viscount Ballroom, with Lily Wilde