The Sound Cafe
Montréal-Based Acoustic Roots Duo Veranda Inspired by Mother Nature Release Album 'Là-Bas'
By Eric Alper.
Rolling hills, whispering forests, rushing rivers and the kaleidoscope of sounds of nature’s inhabitants are a natural symphony that Mother Nature conducts for our great pleasure. The music that evokes all of these soul-stirring environments is where Francophone folk, country and bluegrass duo Veranda have staked their sonic claim with their first full length album “Là-Bas”, and the focus single “La Visite”!
It’s only natural that musician and actress Catherine-Audrey Lachapelle and multi-instrumentalist Léandre Joly-Pelletier would find each other in their great love for country, folk and bluegrass music and set out to bring a distinctly Appalachian vibe to Québec’s music scene and beyond. “Là-Bas” is the full-length expression of their quest to blend the traditional and contemporary into a modern day mélange.
From high lonesome bluegrass to intimate folk ballads, “Là-Bas” is a journey through 11 tracks or ‘milestones’ along a very interesting rural route. Sweet melodies, soulful harmonies, and fine-tuned playing à la contemporaries like Alison Krauss & Union Station, Old Crow Medicine Show and Watchhouse are all part of the creative fuel. With its combination of human themes that resonate and the diverse beauty of the natural world, the album finds its perfect blend of outside and inside wonderment.
“Questions regarding the pursuit of happiness and human loneliness are approached through the eyes of forests, mountains and rivers rather than from the simple point of view of human experience,” notes the duo.
Perhaps being able to keep their troubadour spirits engaged during the pandemic helped Lachapelle and Joly-Pelletier settle into the themes of their new album. Just after releasing their first EP in French, “Yodel Bleu” in 2020, the couple were able to split their time between a home base on the edge of the Rivière-Rouge near Parc National du Mont-Tremblant and playing shows on stages around Québec, Western Canada, and the Yukon.
While most of the self-penned songs on “Là-bas” are informed by observing nature and the human condition, the current single “La Visite” is, in contrast, rooted in the duo’s home province and its history.
“‘La Visite’ is a song inspired by Quebec's traditional stories,” says Lachapelle. “It's the whisper of a woman waiting for her lover, long gone to work in the northern forests.”
A brokenhearted, mid-tempo lament anchored by banjo, percussive acoustic guitar and Lachapelle’s dusky lead vocal, “La Visite” rises up into a sweetly sorrowful chorus as Joly-Pelletier joins in on smooth and skillfully complementary harmonies.
On frappe à ma porte
La prière si forte
D’une femme au cœur fendu?
J’ai pleuré comme une folle
Je t’ai crié des injures
J’suis usée à la corde
Bon Dieu que les temps sont durs
There's a knock on my door
would you have heard
The prayer so strong
Of a woman with a broken heart?
I cried like crazy
I shouted insults at you
I'm worn out
God damn times are tough
“La Visite” follows two previous singles Veranda released this spring and summer leading up to the new album release, the title track “Là-Bas” and the toe-tapping “Toutes les Rivières”.
“Là-Bas” is filled with rollicking melodies that range from playful to poignant, and the warm, intimate feeling of jamming on the front porch with friends who just happen to be virtuoso players. The album was recorded at Montréal’s Treatment Room with engineering and mixing by Gilles Castilloux. On the recording, Joly-Pelletier plays guitar and mandolin and sings. Lachapelle sings and plays autoharp. Rounding out the studio band were Marc Olivier Tremblay-Drapeau on contrabass, Tommy Gauthier on violin, Guy Donis on banjo and Joe Grass on clawhammer banjo and pedal steel, Charles Guay on drums and Léa Jarry on additional background vocals.
Veranda’s visionaries and core duo, Catherine-Audrey Lachapelle and Léandre Joly-Pelletier each carry some serious creative pedigrees. Lachapelle is a professional actress known for her long-standing role in Radio-Canada’s hit TV series “District 31.” Her star has been rising throughout the series and she was nominated in 2016 for best actress in a supporting role at the prestigious Gala Québec Cinema. Even though her acting career was on the rise, she couldn’t deny her need to make music and found her way to Joly-Pelletier and Veranda. Léandre Joly-Pelletier is a sought-after multi-instrumentalist, working with many well-established folk, country and bluegrass artists over the past decade including Sara Dufour, Laurence Jalbert, and Notre Dame-de-Grass.
Together, Veranda has a clear, enticing vision of the place where their music lives, steeped in tradition but powered by new approaches.
“Imagine a place way out in the countryside, where there is a rustic cabin in the woods in front of which Dolly Parton, Ralph Stanley and Emmylou Harris are quietly swaying and singing under the pine trees; that's where Veranda calls home.”