Published Mar 06, 2017Guelph, Ontario resident and folk/country/rock balladeer Richard Laviolette looked to family for creative inspiration on his latest release, Taking the Long Way Home. In fact, Laviolette's father Darrell, a country musician himself, was slated to join his son on the record but had to take a pass to care for Laviolette's ailing mother, who died recently after a lengthy battle with Huntington's disease.
Laviolette's mother was also musical, and the family would convene at his grandmother's home to improvise musically in the gospel and classic country tradition. These communal jam sessions and other family memories, along with reflections on childhood, make up the lyrical content on the album. It's combined with an enticing blend of classic country musicianship courtesy of Laviolette and a variety of album guests, which make the album feel new and original despite this being a difficult genre in which to stand out.
There are subtle influences that Laviolette seems to draw from on the record, always in an appreciative, respectful way that never seems obvious or flagrant. Traces of his musical hero Neil Young can be heard scattered throughout the album, but it's when his urgent and emotional vocal delivery conjures classic country ghosts like Hank Williams, or even folk luminaries such as Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie, that the songs feel the most vital.
The first two album cuts, "Grey Rain" and "Two Guitars," epitomize these influences but also take the listener on a refreshing, distinctive musical trip that clearly defines Laviolette's fresh approach to songwriting. "Taking the Long Way Home" is a song about Laviolette's battle with and subsequent recovery from hip replacement surgery, and trades in the classic country feel for a more outlaw country vibe, complete with moody violin and a foot stomping beat. Additional album highlights include quiet, melancholic ballad "The Rock and the Moss" and "Yesterday's Gospel," a wistful revisiting of those formative family jams.
The songs here can run a bit long at times, and some of the melodies seem vaguely derivative, but Laviolette is able to pull whatever faults exist away from the fire with his original style, powerful vocals and captivating lyricism. Taking the Long Way Home is a pleasurable listening experience from a burgeoning yet still underrated Canadian singer-songwriter. (You've Changed)