Angela Desveaux's Dark Side

Angela Desveaux's Dark Side
Heartbreak is the most common theme in country music, but not many singers can evoke it at first breath. But Angela Desveaux can have you weeping at her opening lines. The melancholy Montrealer excels at both radio-friendly roots rock in the Lucinda Williams mode and the dead slow, haunting heart-wrenchers best experienced during post-break-up 3 a.m. drives. Her debut, Wandering Eyes, draws equally from both.

While she admits to her share of past pain, most of the open-heart surgery found in her songcraft is a couple of years old. "My boyfriend that I’m living with right now has a studio and is a drummer,” she says. "I can tour and make out at the same time!”

Even now she’s drawn to the dark side. "I listen to a lot of fiddle music, and there are a lot of laments and minor keys there,” says Desveaux, who spent her childhood summers in Cape Breton. "My grandmother lost her first husband at sea because he couldn’t swim. I’ve also been listening to a lot of coal miner songs, really dark stuff.”

Desveaux is an anomaly in Montreal, where the country scene is mostly rooted in strictly traditional and bluegrass modes — so strict that one Montreal institution, the Wheel Club, doesn’t allow drums, electric instruments, or original songs. While she cut her teeth on that scene, Wandering Eyes, out on Thrill Jockey, features contributions from producer/drummer Howard Bilerman, Snailhouse, Harris Newman and Mike Moya — none of whom are known for playing straight-ahead country rock.

"Older folks think traditional stuff is being sincere and honest,” she says. "I don’t know why they can’t grasp that I’m being more honest by making a rock album. For [the traditionalists], there’s too much going on. They like a formula, the same solo over and over, and they like it to be predictable. My parents heard the album and they love it, and my relatives will hear it this summer. I have a feeling they’ll say, ‘Where’s the fiddle?’”