Out of the box A Place Called Love’s first single, ‘Today I’m Gonna Try and Change the World’ hit the Top 10 at Country Radio and garnered some interest from A/C radio. When Reid begins his A Place Called Love tour in Canada on September 13th he’ll be playing over forty largely sold out shows, often multiple nights, in some of the country’s largest venues from coast to coast. But awards and accolades aren’t what motivate Reid’s audience to return to his shows time and again. What does draw them is Reid’s commitment to speaking the truth, and his ability to reach out as both a songwriter and a member of their community – only one of a many in a group of friends and neighbours who celebrate with each other in times of joy and lean on one another in times of need.
It’s just that quality, explains Ian Ralfini, President of EMI/Manhattan Records that so enthralled him when he was first invited to watch Reid perform in Halifax in 2009 by EMI Canada’s President, Deane Cameron. For Ralfini, translating the immense success Reid enjoys in Canada isn’t complicated. “Our job is to put him in front of a new audience. You can leave the rest to Johnny Reid. There isn’t anybody doing what he is doing today and we are totally, totally, committed to him.”
Although some songs on A Place Called Love may dwell on the heartache and struggle that comes with the loss of love, the bulk of A Place Called Love concerns itself with throwing a party in love’s honour. A call to get up, find strength in the beauty of living and tear up the dance floor at your earliest opportunity.
Whether it’s the down home stomp of opener, ‘You Gave My Heart A Home’, the upbeat soul infused, horn heavy, ‘Love Thing’, or more somber offerings such as ‘Hands Of Working Man’ and the album’s title track, on A Place Called Love Reid settles ever more comfortably into a sound that is uniquely his own. A fluid mix of country, smoky Memphis soul and R&B that depends as much on the morality and storytelling of country music as it does the instrumentation and fiery performance ethic of soul.
Recorded in Nashville’s Blue Room and Toronto’s famed Metalworks Studios with returning producer and co-writer, Brent Maher, the album reunites Reid with many of the players who’ve brought such musical depth to previous releases like 2007’s Kicking Stones and 2009’s double platinum smash, Dance With Me. Among them: guitarists Mark Selby and Richard Bennett; bassist Glenn Worf; drummer/percussionist Nir Z; former Faces keyboardist John Jarvis; and vocalist Vicki Hampton, who’s backed the likes of Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Rogers and Billy Joel.
As always, there’s plenty of space between the lines of Reid’s lyrics for listeners to find reflections of the pleasure and pain of their own greatest loves and losses. But on this record Reid also speaks directly to his audience, telling them in no uncertain terms that finding A Place Called Love will always be a dream worth chasing and that – as far as he’s concerned – in doing so we are all in this together.
Nowhere does he do so more clearly than on ‘This Is Not Goodbye’, an expression of thankfulness for the support he’s received from family, friends and fans alike that he intends to close every show with in an effort return the gift in kind. “When we were putting this tour together I said to myself, I’ve got ninety minutes on stage. My goal is to have people walk in to a show and, if they don’t believe in a place called love at the beginning, to make sure they do by the end.”
More than anything A Place Called Love reads like a love letter. Both an intensely personal exploration of our common human need to inhabit A Place Called Love we can call our very own, and a challenge to everyone who finds a measure of peace and inspiration in Johnny Reid’s music to help each other to find it.