Angela Desveaux
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Angela Desveaux

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"Song Sung Blue"

The bleak and the beautiful walk hand-in-hand on Cape Breton Island, a craggy spit of land that extends into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nova Scotia. Those elements come together just as naturally in the music of Angela Desveaux, a Breton-raised, Montreal-based singer-songwriter who reconciles the bluer-than-blue tone of old-time country with the sun-kissed pastels of classic California rock—pulling off that alchemical fusion with a guileless grace seldom seen among more doctrinaire alt-country troops.

“Country music was forced upon me by my parents,” the 28-year-old singer says with a laugh. “We’d go on long road trips and listen to a lot of country tapes and I’d sing along and ended up with a country twang. After a while, that was the only way I could sing.”

While that twang made Desveaux a seemingly perfect fit for some of Montreal’s more hootenanny-oriented outfits—she sang country covers and honed her guitar chops in a bluegrass combo or two—she felt compelled to do something “more polished and a little less clichéd.”

“I enjoyed a lot of the stuff I was doing in bands like the Sonny Best Band, but when it came to my own songs, I couldn’t write that way,” she says. “Most of the music in the other bands was very upbeat, and I find it easier to write downbeat songs than happy ones. If I never had to perform in front of an audience, I’d write nothing but sad songs, but people need to have something more affirming when you’re playing live.”

On her Thrill Jockey debut Wandering Eyes, Desveaux weaves affirmation and desolation into a tapestry reminiscent of Neil Young’s more burnished work. And while the singer says that she sees the disc—produced by ex-Arcade Fire drummer Howard Bilerman—on a continuum somewhere between Lucinda Williams and Fleetwood Mac, her lilting phrasing and flair for plangent arrangements ground its songs firmly in the Acadian tradition of her place of origin.

“I don’t really sing in French because in the French language that I speak, the accent is very different than where I live in Quebec,” she says. “But there’s definitely a tie to the music of Cape Breton, where the music is very emotional and it’s very baroque. It’s very melancholy, even if it’s a jig. That kind of music gives me shivers and it brings me home right away.”
By David Sprague

First printed in December 2006 - Harp

"Angela Desveaux - les pieds sur terre"

Deux ans après les chansons country-folk attachantes de Wandering Eyes, Angela Desveaux refait surface avec son groupe, The Mighty Ship, ainsi qu’avec un nouvel album plus rock. Une étape charnière dans la vie artistique de cette Montréalaise discrète, mais bien déterminée.

Même si ce n’est pas toujours simple de vivre du folk en anglais au Québec, la chanteuse ne regrette pas d’avoir fait le saut de son Cap-Breton natal à la métropole. En 2005, le producteur, et ancien percussionniste d’Arcade Fire, Howard Bilerman, tombe sous le charme de cette voix, que l’on compare déjà à Gillian Welch et à Lucinda Williams.

Peu de temps après, le couple commence alors à travailler sur ce qui deviendra Wandering Eyes. Sous contrat avec l’étiquette américaine Thrill Jockey (Tortoise, The Fiery Furnaces), Desveaux part alors à la con­quê­te du Canada et des États-Unis.

Effort de groupe

Grâce à un succès d’estime ainsi qu’à une critique plutôt favorable au départ, on peut dire que les choses avancent graduellement pour cette auteure-compositrice-interprète anglophone.

«Cette fois, je sens que ce disque est davantage un effort de grou­pe. Il reste que je compose la plupart des chansons, mais j’accueil­le aussi ouvertement les idées de chacun des musiciens. L’influen­ce rock, ça vient beaucoup des autres et surtout de la tournée qui a suivi Wandering Eyes.»

Avec l’aide d’un nouveau réalisateur aux commandes, Angela Desveaux & The Mighty Ship fait ressortir davantage la lumière que le côté sombre de cette musique country.

«Je crois qu’avec Dave Draves, sa façon de produire accentue le côté pop de certaines mélodies [mentionne Desveaux]. Je ne cher­­che pas à devenir quelqu’un d’autre, mais cet album correspond davantage à mon état d’esprit actuel. Il y a encore du country et du folk à la base, mais je trouve que c’est plus diversifié comme approche.»

Conter des histoires

Le nom de son groupe et la pièce-titre du disque renvoient à une histoire familiale qui pointe, encore une fois, vers ses origines.

«Ma grand-mère a perdu son premier mari en mer. C’est une sorte d’hommage que je lui rends, tout comme au folklore de la Nouvelle-Écosse. Que ça passe par le rock ou le country, on finit toujours par raconter des histoires.»

L’enregistrement de The Migh­ty Ship donne aussi l’impression d’une affaire de famille.

«On a travaillé au studio de mon copain Gilles Castilloux, qui joue également de la batterie, avec Mike Feuerstack à la guitare et Eric Digras à la basse. Simplement notre équipe, plus des invités comme Mike O’Brien ou Joe Grass. C’est ce qui nous a permis d’explorer ces nouveaux horizons en toute confiance.»

Et l’on sent une réelle fierté, à l’autre bout du fil, chez cette jeune chanteuse à découvrir. - David Cantin - Le Soleil

"Angela Desveaux & The Mighty Ship"

Just a gorgeous second record by a fine, young voice in folk-oriented rock from Montreal. I've spent the last few days listening to this album and it's all still seeping in. That said, it takes little time for Angela Desveaux's warm voice and her amazing band to win you over. As both a songwriter and songstress, Desveaux possesses a rare, almost effortless ability to convey deep emotion with her music and she continues to hone a timeless sound here. Both you and your parents might love this record. - Vish Khanna - CBC Radio3

"Angela Desveaux Struggles With Love"

Feist once pointed out that “the saddest part of a broken heart isn’t the ending so much as the start.” Montreal singer/songwriter Angela Desveaux has put that philosophy to use on two solo albums of heartbreak and hand-wringing, where even her major key melodies finds falling in love to be a tragic experience: “There's something about joining another that makes you feel sad/ Leaving part of yourself, convinced that it’s bad.”

Affairs of the heart aren’t trivial concerns for her. “I think it’s always good versus evil for me,” the singer says casually. “I really enjoy science fiction novels and movies; I always see life as a struggle. I think I write songs as advice to myself, and I hope that maybe it consoles other people who have similar problems. But they’re always very general or a bigger topic; they’re not specific problems.” They’re also not specific to her own state of affairs — something that her boyfriend and drummer, Gilles Castilloux, will be happy to know when Desveaux sings lines like, “I’ve got you to remind me of all I'm running from.”

“I don’t hide the fact that love is a constant struggle,” says Desveaux. “Gilles knows that I love him a lot, but the first year with him was a constant struggle. You always have to pay a price for something that is good. I like highlighting the fact that there is a bad part. I saw an old interview with Margaret Atwood, where the young interviewer was saying how Atwood was obviously really depressed and a negative person because she painted a bad picture of the world. Honestly, I'm a really happy person.”

With the release of her accomplished second album, The Mighty Ship, she has reason to be. For starters, she has the strong support of a solid touring band, featuring drummer Castilloux, bassist Eric Digras, and guitarist Mike Feuerstack — aka Snailhouse. Whereas her underrated debut, the 2006 album Wandering Eyes, was thrown together with a pick-up band — under the nurturing eye of producer/drummer Howard Bilerman of Montreal’s renowned Hotel 2 Tango studio — The Mighty Ship finds her writing more with an electric band in mind, rather than a series of solo songs.

Because she’s perceived as a folk singer, Desveaux says, “People always ask me to play alone or as a duet, but then I only play one song off the new album. The title track is the most folk/country song; everything else needs the band and their textures. This album will have to be promoted and toured that way, which is what I will do at whatever cost. I want to leave behind playing solo acoustic. These are the songs that I play with these band members, and that’s what I want to show people right now.”

That might be difficult for Feuerstack, who in addition to plugging his new Snailhouse album is also one of Montreal’s MVPs, playing an active role in Bell Orchestre, the Harbourcoats, and his recently reunited ’90s band Wooden Stars. But he’s made ample time on his schedule for Desveaux, whether with the full band or as a duo — which they did when Bruce Cockburn invited them to open some UK dates. In return, she cedes a couple of songs in every set to Snailhouse material.

A lesser songwriter might be intimidated welcoming Feuerstack into the fold, but in addition to the fact that he’s an extremely generous musician, Desveaux is simply a huge fan. “When you have someone like him in the band, you have to mention his work and show it to people. Although my songs are straightforward and have a country/pop flavour, he’ll always bring something that’s unique. I really value that; he’s really helped shape these songs.” The Mighty Ship was produced by Feuerstack’s old friend, Ottawa engineer Dave Draves (Kathleen Edwards, Howe Gelb), and is once again coming out on renowned American indie label Thrill Jockey, where she’s easily the most straightforward and accessible artist on a roster where the Fiery Furnaces and Freakwater are as close to pop music as they get.

Despite the impressive company she keeps, Desveaux knows better than to count on sure things — a trait she shares with her characters, for whom the future is always questionable at best. “They’re thinking, ‘One day I'll be really sure of what I'm doing in life,’” she explains. “The older I get, the more I realize that I'm never going to be certain of what I'm doing. The fact I know that is more comfortable now. I'll never be perfectly content, but this is the way life is; it's uncertain.” In the meantime, Desveaux continues to work at the same St. Laurent health food store she has for years, which directly inspired the new song “For Design.” “Maybe this is ruining the romance of the song, but it’s about teaching people to love and respect their bodies,” she explains. “Working in a health food store I see so many eating disorders. A lot of people who come in here are really paranoid obsessive-compulsives.

“I've seen two girls come in here regularly, and they were skinny to the point where they would buy three almonds each, and they would hardly have the strength to open the front door. They were both white as ghosts. Where is the communication in the family? Why isn't she in a hospital bed and seeing a psychologist?

“When I first started working here, I bought every pill I thought would help: liquid calcium, fibre supplements. Then I realized my fridge looked like an old lady’s and I was spending half my paycheque on this stuff.

“I'm probably not the best sales person in a health food store,” she laughs. Once The Mighty Ship sets sail, she might not have to be. - Michael Barclay - Exclaim

"Sure Enough"

For female artists, the shadow of Lucinda Williams looms large, and justifiably so - an artist could do far worse than to forge a career like hers, channeling toughness and tenderness through a world-worn rasp and masterfully evocative songwriting. No, being compared to Lucinda is no faint praise, assuming it's justified. So it's interesting that not one but two such artists would emerge from Canada in the last few years. The first would be Ottawa's Kathleen Edwards, who has gone on to some considerable success evoking the rockier side of Lucinda, and the other is Montreal-based Angela Desveaux, who takes a more pop-oriented approach to things.

Like her 2006 debut Wandering Eyes, Desveaux's new record The Mighty Ship is a well-considered balance of jangling, upbeat melodicism and pensive, downcast weepers, perhaps heavier on the atmospherics and with some welcome orchestral embellishments but hardly light years away. Though the recipe at work is a well-used one, it's made exceptional by the six-string accentuation Snailhouse and Wooden Stars guitarist Mike Feuerstack (another parallel with Edwards is the savvy move of building her band around a shit-hot guitarist) and Desveaux's own voice - a heartbreaking combination of sugar, twang and sigh - and her pen. Her songs manage to simultaneously emphasize her wide-eyed and optimistic youthful side as well as the experience of one who's endured her own share of wear, weariness and heartbreak. - Chromewaves

"Move over Neko"

Angela Desveaux, the Montrealean songwriter with roots in rural Cape Breton, has a rich country-tinged voice and a fondness for traditional instruments. Still, her second album, Angela Desveaux & the Mighty Ship, is mostly a rock record, with strident beats and clean, simple guitar solos. Her band—guitarist Mike Feuerstack of the Wooden Stars, bassist Eric Digras, and drummer Gilles Castilloux—is much the same as on debut Wandering Eyes, but they’ve developed a knack for emphatic beats and clear, well-structured instrumental breaks. Feuerstack has some particularly good, well-thought-out guitar solos, on the rock side in “Other Side” and “Hide from You”, and in a more country-blues idiom on “Shape You”. Sure, there are occasional twangs of pedal steel, now-and-then delicate, vibrato vocal flourishes, and a couple of songs in country waltz-time to show her traditional roots. But for the most part she sounds strong and sure and indie-rocking, a latter-day Juliana Hatfield or Kristin Hersh.

Maybe the main element that links her to country legends from Patsy Cline to Lucinda Williams is her subject matter. Desveaux’s main preoccupation here seems to be strong women caught in self-destructive relationships. It’s a reminder that, even now, even for girls who write their own songs and lead their own bands and have the last word on every aspect of their careers, love can still be a problem, the one thing that undoes all the independence. The men in these songs are always falling short, always leading their women astray, and the women, whether Desveaux herself or a fictional character, are always putting up with them. The gap between the strong, self-assured singer that Desveaux demonstrably is, and the lonely, desperate-for-love women that populate her songs, is one of the most interesting things about this very interesting album. Consider, for instance, the opener “Other Side”, adorned with long mesmeric guitar tones and cool harmonies, a country shading of pedal steel. Desveaux’s voice starts at a low murmur, as she describes what is clearly a flawed relationship, only blossoming in volume and clarity as she sings the chorus: “And it’s taking all my energy / When you ask me to do something wrong / It’s not me”. Clearly it’s a woman of integrity talking, someone who, for reasons of her own, has fallen into a compromised relationship. The same thing arises, later on, in the harder rocking “Hide from You” in the lines, “I can’t say no to you / So what am I supposed to do / When you ask me a second time / I think that I will try to hide from you”. What is he asking her for? Why does she object? You don’t know, but you sense the collision of high moral principles and the need for love. No wonder that in the lovely, slow-moving country torch song “Joining Another” she observes that, “Something about joining another / Makes you feel sad”.

And yet, despite the vacillations of Desveaux’s characters, there’s an undeniable strength and joy in the music. The title track is as sad as they come lyrically, describing a young wife waiting for a sailor whose ship has gone down. The song is dedicated to Desveaux’s grandmother, who lost her husband this way, and it contains bits of a traditional song about the Titanic. Yet it is lushly orchestrated, not just with rock band instruments, but trumpets and perhaps a bassoon, and it has a triumphant waltz-time swagger to it that cuts through the pathos. Similarly, the jittery, jangling “Red Alert” contains the album’s most despairing couplet (“In the end, who you wait for / In the end, who you work for / Can’t provide for you”), and yet its percolating Pixies-esque bassline, its jumpy tom-clattering drums make the song rock.

Desveaux has a wonderfully warm, strong voice, as effective in a confidential murmur as in her loudest rocker-girl wail. She can sing like a 1990s indie-rock diva (“Red Alert”, “Sure Enough”), or like a country girl full of flowery vibrato (“The Way You Stay”), and, moreover, she can make the transition seamless. Still, it’s her combination of strength and vulnerability, independence and longing for connection that makes Angela Desveaux & the Mighty Ship so remarkable. Maybe women today still can’t have it all, and maybe they never will… but it’s a worthy struggle, explored with subtlety and passion in this wonderful album. - Pop Matters - Jennifer Kelly

"Angela Desveaux & The Mighty Ship"

There is something charming about a woman singing about lost love and heartache over dusty, roots instrumentation. Of course those sounds come in many forms, but the honesty and openness that exudes from the gentle exhale of a road weary woman is as comforting as a hug from a close friend. And when it comes to Angela Desveaux, it's a hug you want to hold onto for just a moment longer, knowing the embrace can make all your pain will simply go away.

Her new record, The Mighty Ship, opens with the confessional Other Side and thanks to her voice, the excellent (albeit subdued) guitar work and backing vocals of Snailhouse's Mike Feuerstack and the beautiful pedal steel of Joe Grass, you are instantly invested into the record. It's probably something only I think, but knowing that a woman can get run over and turn to the sounds you normally find from men at the bottom of the bottle renews my faith in life and music.

Desveaux does range on the poppier side of the equation, but she's able to mix the pleasantries (Sure Enough and Shape You) with enough tear in your beer pain (Joining Another) and almost Gospel (the powerful Mighty Ship) to force you to believe ever emotion she creates. She changes tempo nicely across the record, proving her voice can chameleon from country to pop and almost anywhere in between. The Spanish guitar and marching drum beat of For Design is a perfect example of how well Angela adapts (even in mid song as they add a soft piano part and guitar noodle) without sounding out of place.

I don't want to stress the importance of Feuerstack's stick - these songs are Desveaux's and the arrangements are more than just two guitars (like the nice horns on the title track) - but the infectious grit he adds to tracks like Hide From You or The Way You Stay really compliments Angela's commanding pipes. The duo's symbiotic relationship blossoms on each song, in countless ways. A quick listen to his noodling in the middle of the slowed down Joining Another shows how he keeps the song moving and gets you excited for her voice to come back in.

This record was a complete surprise to me, sent to me by a friend and I'd heard nothing about it. Considering how naive I was to the listen, the immediate impact it had on me was pretty amazing. I'd highly recommend this record to anyone who usually falls in line with my tastes, and really to anyone who can appreciate a talented artist with a terrific voice and rock solid band. Basically, to anyone who likes music. - Herohill

"Angela Desveaux & The Mighty Ship"

Angela Desveaux has a voice made to sing country music. Not too long ago, that’s what she was doing. But on her second full-length CD, she’s made a conscious effort to move in a pop direction. On such breezy up tempo songs as Sure Enough, Hide From You and For Design, her sound echoes the Beatles, circa 1966. But the CD isn’t completely devoid of twang and you can still hear the influence of Lucinda Williams on numbers like Other Side, which opens the CD, and the gorgeous You To Remind Me, the unlisted song that closes it. One of her most interesting songs is Mighty Ship, a folkish ballad that references the sinking of the Titanic and which gave her band their name.

--MIKE REGENSTREIF - National Post

"Angela Desveaux & The Mighty Ship"

From its opening cascade of chords to its last flickering notes, Angela Desveaux’s new record is an arresting, emotive affair. The Montreal native has followed the critical success of 2006’s Wandering Eyes with a bold display of timeless, country-tinged rock ’n’ roll. Clearly revelling in the chance to make an album with a full band, Desveaux doesn’t let the inevitable sonic uproar submerge her presence as a singer and coyly direct lyricist. Instead, she and her band suss out the hooks in wonderful pop fare like “Hide from You” and “The Way You Stay,” whose sunny demeanour blinds listeners from the whole album’s underlying angst. Relationships can be the stuff of tawdry art but Desveaux is a skilled expressionist, crafting heavy tunes with poise. - Eye Weekly


Angela Desveaux - Self-Titled EP 2005
Angela Desveaux - Wandering Eyes 2006 - thrill 175
Plum Compilation / 7 inches Box Set 2007 - thrill 200
Angela Desveaux & The Mighty Ship 2008 - thrill 203



Angela was born near Montreal, but grew up in her family's home of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Cape Breton is an island made up of small fishing towns and mountains, with a rich musical tradition close to that of Ireland but with a strong French influence. In addition to the rich musical environment of Cape Breton, Angela’s parents were big pop country fans so she grew up surrounded by the likes of Hank Williams, George Jones, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. Although she has been living and playing in Montreal for the last few years, those maritime stories of loss and death and those classic country tales of wrong doers and wrong doing continue to haunt and inspire Desveaux. The Mighty Ship borrows its title from a traditional folk ballad about the Titanic, but it also refers to Desveaux's Grandmother, with whom she is very close and who sadly lost her first husband at sea.

When Angela moved back to Montreal, she got her start playing in country and bluegrass bands singing backing or lead vocals, and playing a bit of guitar. She was quietly writing songs and meeting a wide array of country musicians. It was in 2005 when she met Howard Bilerman, producer and drummer of the Arcade Fire. He was blown away by her voice and her songwriting and took her under his wing, introducing her to a whole new crop of musicians. With a bit of help, Angela got her band together and Howard began recording her debut 2006's Wandering Eyes. The results were songs that combined elements of a contemporary rock band sound with pedal steel and other instruments that underscored her country leanings.

The band remains primarily guitarist Mike Feuerstack (Snailhouse, Wooden Stars), bassist Eric Digras and drummer Gilles Castilloux. Angela spent months on the road in Canada, the US and Europe, touring with artists ranging from folk to indie-rock including Bruce Cockburn, Archer Prewitt, Califone and Howe Gelb. Through it all, Angela grew confident in her role as bandleader. Her confidence and the cohesiveness of a well-toured band are both very apparent on The Mighty Ship. It is a bold step forward for her: the song writing is assured and, as always, her remarkable voice and range takes center stage.

"For me, real country music focuses on the storytelling," says Desveaux. With her newly developed confidence as a songwriter and bandleader, the stories she tells on The Mighty Ship are ones of strength in the face of adversity, including the story of her grandmother on the album’s title track, a young girl struggling to define herself on “For Design,” and her own self-affirmation on “Red Alert.” Desveaux and her band recorded the album at Castilloux's Treatment Room studio in their Montreal neighborhood. She asked Dave Draves to handle the recording, struck by the clarity of sound on his recordings for Wooden Stars, Kathleen Edwards and Howe Gelb's 'Sno Angel Like You. Songs are decorated with her beloved country flavors of pedal steel, piano and viola, but new to the mix are flourishes of horns, and a bolder interaction between rhythm and lead guitar. Also striking are Angela’s vocal harmonies with Feuerstack, whose voice is familiar to many from his Juno Award-winning work in Wooden Stars.

While on Wandering Eyes Desveaux claimed the influence of great women of country music like Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams, she now points to Chrissy Hynde, Wayne Coyne and Neil Young as sources of inspiration. These bolder rock influences are apparent on The Mighty Ship in her lead vocal choices and her guitar playing, as well as her arrangements. These bolder influences compliment Angela Desveaux’s strong sense of melody, her incredible voice and her abilities as a storyteller. The Mighty Ship. Mighty Indeed!