Staying true to the blues 

Sidestreet Reny makes music with the Delta blues at heart

click to enlarge Blue duo Lil’ Bell and Reny sing the (modern) blues at the GLC this week.
  • Blue duo Lil’ Bell and Reny sing the (modern) blues at the GLC this week.

Who: Sidestreet Reny

When: Friday, March 20, 10 p.m.

Where: GLC

Cost: $15

On Friday night, the GLC will come alive with the soulful sounds of the blues.

With Reny, also known as J. Renard Collette, on vocals, National steel resonator, blueshar, keys, and production, and Lil' Bell, better known as Maribel Landaetta, on drums, washboard and vocals, Sidestreet Reny is set to create an evening of blues-inspired entertainment.

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, the pair now lives in Portland, Oregan, traveling around the North West, playing gigs and busking whenever possible.

"We were living in L.A. of all places, which we affectionately refer to as 'Hell-A,' and we got stuck there for a while, caught up trying to make it in L.A., and we went on tour a lot and ended up on our first tour in the North West and just fell in love," said Reny.

The musical couple returned to L.A., but it wasn't long before they decided to make the move to Oregan to explore the music scene.

"Basically, we are on tour constantly," Reny said with a laugh. "It's pretty much our life. If we're not heading to another town for some gigs, we're performing on the streets."

What's important to these two, ultimately, is that they get to make music.

The pair draws on a wide range of genres to create their distinct, rich sound - dipping into roots, folk, old school rap, calypso, reggae and other genres - but old Delta blues are at their musical core.

"There's something about the formula that organically came together over many years," Reny reflected.

As a teenager, Reny had a successful career as a rap artist, living in Europe and appearing on albums with big names, like Brian McKnight and Vanessa Williams, but things didn't go exactly as planned.

"...The record industry can chew people up and spit them up pretty quick," he said, "And as a young kid, I got chewed up and spit out pretty quick."

At that time, he stopped rapping and turned to the blues, drawing on these experiences to write more music.

"Me and Bell obsessed over that for a while, and then at some point we realized that there were too many facets to my songwriting and to what I do," he said.

Bell, on the other hand, was simply musical by nature, and didn't step into the spotlight until she met Reny.

"I finally dragged her up there, and before I knew it, she was hooked," Reny said.

Now, their music starts with the Delta blues - what Reny refers to as an "undeniable force" - and grows from there, as different sounds, beats and rhythms are incorporated.

The pair share the utmost respect for the blues, ensuring that, first and foremost, their music stays true to its roots and fits within the traditional framework, while at the same time taking the sound to the next level.

"What I do is based around what Bo Carter or Blind Boy Fuller or any of those cats would think of what I do," Reny said. "...At the same time, I have to remember that we are trying to build on a framework rather than merely perpetuate something that has been going on for 100 years."

Reny hopes that their music will appeal to both old school music lovers, who are likely to dismiss hip hop out of hand, and young kids who have no appreciation for the true blues.


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