Richelle Andre is joined by bassist Darryl Milne as she performs her CD release concert Saturday at Gate House Community Theatre in Port McNeill.

Andre claims new fans with release show

Port Hardy singer-songwriter plays CD release show at the Gate House Community Theatre.

A review by

J.R. Rardon

PORT McNEILL—It was billed as a concert to commemorate the release last month of her debut CD. But Richelle Andre’s concert at Gate House Community Theatre provided the small, yet vocal, audience a sneak preview of what will hopefully be a follow-up recording.

The Port Hardy singer-songwriter was clearly among friends — perhaps 40 or so — for her first local appearance since recording Claimer, a collection of nine original songs, in September at San Francisco’s Okey Doke Studio.

Those fans weren’t disappointed, as Andre and supporting musicians James Lambert and Darryl Milne performed each of the nine numbers — and a new track, Blue Mountains, which was inspired by her recent recording trip to the States.

If the evening had a flaw, besides the low turnout, it was the dim lighting that left the performers largely in shadow. The theatre is run by a non-profit society and its technical staff was not available to operate the ceiling-mounted spotlights. As the lights have previously been subject to tripping electrical breakers, they were left off to ensure the music was not interrupted over the course of the evening.

The dim conditions provided a challenge for North Island videographer Rob Marty of Frog House Productions, who was on hand with his camera and a large boom to record promotional video for Andre.

Fortunately, there were no issues with the sound. The only hiccups came courtesy of Andre’s occasional eclectic songwriting, as she occasionally was required to re-start songs that varied in time signatures and guitar tuning. Those brief interludes were quickly forgotten when she and her trio launched into the songs from her alt-folk catalogue, from the country-tinged Wild West, Odd Romance and Phantom Love — “It’s a spaghetti western,” she said by way of introduction — to the blues of Give Me Space, to the soft-rock stylings of the lyrically arresting Claimer, Band of Thieves and Hotel Jesus.

The pièce de résistance was the ethereal Violet Sea, a song Andre had never performed in public and which producer Philip Milner insisted she record on Claimer. Her new bandmates also insisted she perform it on her current tour, which kicked off last month in Saskatchewan and which continues this weekend at The Soundgarden in Coombs.

Claimer was recorded with the assistance of several Bay Area musicians, who added vocals, guitar, bass, banjo, harmonica and pedal steel guitar. On Saturday, Andre got help replicating that sound from Milne, on electric bass, and from Lambert, a multi-instrumentalist who contributed acoustic and electric guitar, mandolin, harmonica, vocals and occasional cheesy jokes.

The show was opened by fellow singer-songwriter Erin Junkala, a recent transplant from Ontario who now lives in Coal Harbour. Junkala, who has been signed to perform as the opening act for John Wort Hannam in the North Island Concert Society’s Apr. 12, 2014, performed a solo acoustic set made up of both original and cover songs. The NICS audience is in for a treat from this performer, who did a nifty job of morphing from a sweet balladeer to a down-and-dirty blues belter over the course of her half-hour set Saturday.

More information on Richelle Andre, and purchase of Claimer, is available at www.richelleandre.com.