Celebrating his first week of living in Montreal, Ottawa ex-pat Isaac Vallentin inaugurated the Thursday's (September 14) events at the Ukrainian Federation Hall with a set of stripped-down folksy love ballads. He was joined by former bandmate Yolande Laroche (of Pony Girl) on clarinet, whose arrangements added a sprightly interplay to his songs.
While Vallentin's recorded output is elevated by chamber folk accompaniment, the simplified arrangements — with only Vallentin's voice, acoustic guitar and Laroche's clarinet — often dulled the intricacies of his songs, turning them into a repetitive swirl of introspection and longing. Vallentin said it himself during some of his standard, self-effacing banter: "Every one of my songs is exactly the same."
Nevertheless, it was clear that the songs were canvasses for richer instrumentation. A sturdy strum on the low E string during set highlight "Bay of the Dock" evoked the rich tones of a cello, while Laroche's playful clarinet showcased the space for exploration that each of Vallentin's songs carries. A pleasant start to the evening, it painted Vallentin as the consummate troubadour, arriving in Montreal with good ideas and an earnest disposition.