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Roxanne Potvin: No Love for the Poisonous

United States
In tangled times, this young artist’s new CD speaks to universal challenges in an intimate and edgy way

9th October 2008 — No Love for the Poisonous is, at its heart, an honest album by a perceptive artist with a distinctive voice. Filled with songs that resonate deeply with this generations’ experiences, it’s an engaging effort that demonstrates her personal growth and evolution as a singer, writer and artist.

This is not a CD by an artist who is sitting still, resting on the past.

It’s taken some time to get here. Roxanne made her first CD when she was 21, a self-financed, self-produced, proudly independent collection of songs rooted in the blues. That was where she was at — a spunky Gatineau girl with a passion for the music of Dinah Washington, tough and edgy blues and R&B dripping in soul and conviction. It helped that she was a pretty good guitarist who could hold her own in the gritty Ottawa clubs and had a voice that could take audiences by the scruff of the neck and shake their souls.

Her next CD, The Way It Feels, produced by Colin Linden and blessed with guest appearances from John Hiatt, Bruce Cockburn, Daniel Lanois and many others, helped establish her as a confident songwriter with a remarkable voice. It immediately established her as a newcomer worth paying attention to, receiving a Juno nomination for Blues Album of the Year.

The Way it Feels also helped make Roxanne an international artist. A young woman who had only once performed outside Canada found herself, along with her friend (and proud mentor) Sue Foley and American blueswoman Deborah Coleman, on the Blues Caravan Tour playing countless dates all over Europe and the US. Along the way, she made a record, Time Bomb, with Foley and Coleman, which continues to be a major seller in Europe. Suddenly in demand at home, she played clubs and festivals across Canada and the U.S. with her own group.

Now 26, Potvin has been busy compiling her own musical vocabulary. The passion and heart of the blues remain an integral part of Roxanne’s music. She plays with funky New Orleans grooves on Dig a Little Deeper while happy old school pop is juxtaposed with brooding lyrics (Laws of Nature, Paralyzed,… “I can’t move, I can’t breathe, I’m scared of my own fear”).

An infectious soul swagger carries a socially conscious thought on Who’s the Enemy (“ I see no weapons drawn no guns against your head, but you run you sweat you’re short of breath and you swear on your life that it’s true”). Alternative pop styles are appropriated and altered to fit her widening musical horizons on Iron and Solder and Real Truth. Introspective moments result in compelling messages that reach beyond the singer’s personal experience on The Puzzle (“Been bleeding from my fingertips, teaching me to loosen my grip”) and the title track.

And, since Roxanne’s earliest childhood influences and her family’s background still resonate, there is a song in French (Je t’aime), and another — like the singer herself — that’s perfectly bilingual (Here With Me).

The recording sessions that produced the new CD were a comfortable and productive environment that inspired the flow of creative juices in everyone involved. A new musical figure in her life, producer Dave MacKinnon, helped shape Roxanne’s vision. A member of the Fembots, a Toronto-based alternative band that gets compared to both My Morning Jacket and Wilco, MacKinnon also plays percussion and keyboards on the recording.

The band is a small cast of stellar musicians and good friends, together creating an intimate setting for the songs to soar. Christine Bougie, who’s making her own mark on the Toronto scene these days, plays guitar and lap steel. The rhythm section is comprised of Roger Travassos on drums and Mark McIntyre on bass and Paul Aucoin who engineered the project, added vibraphone and bells to the soundscape.

Potvin remains a focused, dedicated musician and artist. She practices every day, reads voraciously and continues to travel. If she has a week off, she’s as likely to drive to New Orleans or Montreal to spend time with friends as she is to stay home. On the day the new record was released (October 28th in Canada), she performed in Norway (her second trip to Scandinavia this year) however she still finds as much joy in playing some of her favorite tunes at blues gigs, unannounced, in small and grungy Toronto clubs.

Both on record and on stage, Roxanne Potvin is a smart, intuitive and enormously likeable young woman. With “No Love for the Poisonous,” she builds on her past, reaches for the future and firmly asserts who she is and what she has to say.
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