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Blake Reid Band

There's an authenticity to country music, borne out of hot days in tractor cabs, out of callused hands plucking guitar strings, and the crunch of boots on gravel. No other art form puts more stock in authenticity than country music, and there's never been any question about that with Blake Reid. Just get the native of Cremona, Alberta talking about his upbringing and you'll hear more than enough proof. In fact, there's a story that in many ways best sums up Reid's latest sophomore album, Rust, released October 30/15. It goes something like this: One of his cherished possessions is his '72 Chevy pickup, transformed from the farm fuel truck to his first set of wheels. Reid's son commented that the old truck should be 'hot-rodded' and repainted. Reid's response? Every dent and scratch tells a small story of life on the farm. The worn paint on the door is where his grandfather's elbow always rested when he drove with his arm out the window. Covering it up would erase part of his story.Rust is brimming with similar tales, showcasing Reid's status as a true workingman's poet, following in the footsteps of Merle Haggard and Tom T. Hall. At the same time, Reid is no traditionalist. The album's first single, "Sounds Like A Song," is the kind of hard-edged, instantly memorable track perfectly suited for a Saturday night play list, or as something to sing along with to make that long drive go a little bit faster. And as a testament to the power of songcraft, it's also a reflection of the only real musical education Reid ever had, listening to AM radios installed in the trucks, tractors and combines he commandeered throughout his youth.

All of those elements add up to the vision Reid had for Rust from the beginning, celebrating the future while honouring the past. It was a concept that Reid's producer Phil O'Donnell—one of Nashville's many transplanted Canadians, whose songs have been recorded by the likes of George Strait, Blake Shelton and Montgomery Gentry—latched onto immediately. "Phil has the right feel for current sounds and instrumentation, and also a deep understanding of everything that's necessary to make great records," Reid says. "The players on the album were hand-picked CMA nominees and award winners, and being able to work with them at Legends Studio in Nashville, where Willie and Waylon and so many of my other heroes made records, was really a dream come true."

Establishing a presence in Country Music is the goal all artists seek to attain, but being able to do it on one's own terms is an entirely different matter. Reid felt he had no other choice but to take the slow-but-steady path, and his commitment to that belief is finally coming to fruition with Rust. While his story isn't unusual, it's a clear example of how undeniable talent can eventually win out in the end.

"I've always written songs, but during the years while performing in the club and rodeo circuits, we had to limit the amount of original material we were playing. In 2011 I decided to take a break from the band and really concentrate on writing songs that spoke to who I was, and to just be me without apology. I discovered right away how much people appreciated that, and I started building a new following. Getting a standing ovation the first time I played Big Valley Jamboree really confirmed it all for me, and since then I can't see any way to do things other than just be who I am."

And while much of the material on Rust is rooted in the Alberta soil that five generations of Reid's family has farmed for over a century, the themes at the heart of the songs are universally relatable. For instance, most people have surely had the same fantasy captured in "Cowboys Were Kings" of somehow escaping fast-paced modern life and waking up in a 'tumbleweed town' or, as on the powerful "Ghosts," been in their favourite bar and had the full weight of its history, and the people who used to drink there, suddenly come to light.

And then there's "That's What Grandpa's Do," a song that, if it fails to move you on first listen, probably means you don't have a heart. "Writing that song was cool because it came out of the three of us—Phil, myself, and Buddy Owens—talking about writing something around how important our grandpas were in our lives," Reid explains. "So the song has bits of all of our memories in it, and putting them together really proved to me how many common experiences all of us share, even if they're not exactly the same."

Rust is the album Blake Reid has been building toward his entire life, and it's heard in every line and every note. Despite how much country music has evolved, those who understand it best know that one thing never changes: authenticity. Blake Reid is as real as it gets, and soon country fans everywhere will know it.

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