Rugged and real – with a vivid cast of characters drawn from true life, Canadian singer-songwriter Rob Reid distills lyrics and melodies into songs with understated eloquence and ringing authenticity.
The title track to his newest full-length, “Paradise,” was inspired by Rob’s experiences working the oil sands of Alberta. Against propulsive drums and razor sharp guitars, the lyrics etch a finely drawn portrait of freezing rain, breaking ice and gritty isolation. “It was a big thing for those of us from the east coast. The economy isn’t so good here, so we moved to Alberta because the money is there. I spent a couple of summers driving heavy equipment — heavy rock trucks, things you see on the Discovery Channel,” he says.
Raised in Nova Scotia, Rob has played guitar since age 11 with a succession of young rock bands. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in classical guitar at Dalhousie University in Halifax, and a Masters at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. Johns. It was at the latter school that his songwriting kicked in.
Newfoundland, the youngest of the Canadian provinces, is an isolated island in the North Atlantic with a harsh climate that belies its breathtaking beauty. It was living in this surreal fog-shrouded landscape that inspired him to begin taking songwriting seriously. “The remoteness, the climate and the cold all played into it,” he remembers.
His classical knowledge notwithstanding, simpler roots music has been Rob’s primary influence, and meticulous finger style acoustic guitar forms the axis in many of the songs. He pens words and melodies he suggests, with the combination of an acoustic guitar and a cold beer. “It usually begins with one line, and that’s the easy part, then I have to figure out where it all fits together. I can feel the ideas unfold.” He avoids over-analyzing the process. “If you judge yourself too much you can fall into a writer’s block and not come out for six months.”
The songs that comprise Paradise were recorded in Los Angeles with producer Chris Bragg, a fellow Canadian who now lives in California. Orchestrated with punch and economy, the arrangements spotlight Rob’s earnest vocals, illustrative lyrics and facility for igniting a hard-rocking rhythm section should the song call for it.
Historically, Northern singer-songwriters share a legacy of instilling locale into their songs; reflections of territories where deep winters are crosscut with the blazing sunsets and the promise of warmer seasons. With Paradise, the songs of Rob Reid serve as a sonic compass to his truth.
– Dan Kimpel