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Delta Reggae & Hollywood Beats

6 May 2008

With the album "Not Seen the Light of Day", Sidestreet Reny Trio must be one of the very few acts out there to successfully combine authentic acoustic blues with hip-hop and reggae.

I'm not going to take up precious review space here by telling you about
Sidestreet Reny's eventful life and career - that story is well-documented on the internet as it is. I will say that based on my preliminary info about the man and his band, I felt more or less confident I was going to like the album: a Jack Kerouac fan playing his own songs on a 1932 National Steel, accompanied by the lovely Maribel "Lil' Bell" Landaetta on drums and backing vocals and Bako Billy Fuller on upright bass. Got to be my kind of blues, right?
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Well, it was - and yet I was in for a major surprise. For the Sidestreet Reny Trio must be one of the very few acts out there to successfully combine authentic acoustic blues with hip-hop and reggae - to my private satisfaction, especially reggae. Indeed, for a few years now I've been speculating that delta blues rhythms of old are actually closer to reggae and other "exotic" beats than the cut-and-dried, simplistic chunka-chunka that's powering mainstream blues of today - or the repetitive, snore-inducing boom-da-boom associated with hippers, hoppers, DJ's and samplers. Always good to be right, eh?  

Call me purist, but I really don't like contemporary music much. Yet, Sidestreet Reny's "Not Seen The Light Of Day" is just that - it's also very real, occasionally poetic, mostly danceable, and altogether quite brilliant. It's an album Reny & Co spent three years putting together, and the end result sounds both comfortably familiar and like nothing I've ever heard before.

Naming one stand-out track from the CD is not easy, but it would have to be "BK" with it's haunting hook-line. As for the remaining 11 songs, there are wee slices of the album that could almost be termed straight blues; at other times, the hip-hop element gets the upper hand for a second - yes, upon repeated listening there were a few verses like that which made me reach for the skip button. But I managed to contain myself, for the album as a whole works amazingly well, if only you allow it to.

As much as I would like to, I cannot tell you: "buy this album, you'll love it" - after all, there is the unlikely possibility that some of you folks out there may be even more conservative in your musical tastes than yours truly. Nevertheless, I would like to encourage you to check this music out. Chances are, you'll end up with a new CD!


Sidestreet Reny: Not Seen the Light of Day. Skip-a-Beat Records, 2007

J. Renard "Sidestreet Reny" Collette (guitars, vocals, keys, harmonica, drums, bass, programming, songwriter), Maribel "Lil' Bell" Landaetta (drums, vocals), Bako Billy Fuller (upright bass)

Produced by J. Renard "Sidestreet Reny" Collette

Links: Sidestreet Reny
website and MySpace