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Silver Jubilee Blues

By Sean Willoughby and Phil Brisse
Photos by Phil Brisse

Recently returned from a 2 week gig in the Bahamas, a tanned and relaxed Angel Forrest and life and musical partner Denis Coulombe sat down for an interview about their upcoming CD launch and Angel's 25 years in the business.
Over the span of more than two hours, Angel shared stories, most that we cannot share due to threats to our personal safety, about how she started singing, her "cover" years, and how she evolved into the artist she is today performing her own original material.

January 29th marks the official release date of her latest offering "Mother Tongue Blues". The project that began as a 50/50 mix of originals and covers morphed into eleven original songs. "When we started recording the creative juices started flowing and we realized we could do a recording of all originals", said Forrest. The covers that were planned were pushed aside to make room for all the new material that the sessions produced.

All songs were written by Angel, her husband Denis Coulombe, and Dimitri Lebel-Alexandre. Denis played acoustic guitar and bass on all tracks, while Dimitri added the rhythm and leads on electric guitar. Filling out the rhythm section was Denis' brother, Sly Coulombe on drums. Chipping in assists on various tracks from the musical community were guitarist Paul Deslauriers, Bernard Quessy on keys, Steve Marriner on harmonica, and Julie Trudeau and Kristen Molner on strings.

Rewind to 1988… Angel was waitressing at Magnan's in Kirkland. She relates "my brother got me the job and showed me the ropes". Through a friend of a friend, Angel started hanging out at weekly informal jams. Guitarist Rob Macdonald's band had a gig as the house band playing rock covers at a bar. The owner of The Brick asked Rob to change things up before they got too stale. Macdonald phoned up Angel and asked her to sing in his band. A shy Angel gave it all she had and sang with her eyes closed. Rather quickly though, Angel found her calling and the powerful voice emerged. And a new chapter began…

Eight years of covers and bar bands followed. She lists some of her influences at the time as Paul Rodgers of Free and Bad Company, Coverdale and Gillan from Deep Purple, Dan McCafferty from Nazareth, as well as Greg Allman, Bonnie Raitt, and Mavis Staples. By far though, Robert Plant "had the biggest impact on how I write because of the way he expresses himself through his lyrics".

A successful Janis Joplin tribute show followed, including a live recording of this show at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Duties singing backup vocals on three of Martin Deschamps' albums followed. Interspersed were other CD releases, "Secondhand Blues" made up of covers, "Here for You" in '05, and a Christmas album in '07. In 2010, she released "Come Alive".

Fast forward to 2013…
The coming months will see Angel performing at release parties throughout the province. A night at Montreal's Bistro a Jojo is slated as well as shows in Sherbrooke, Trois Rivieres, Levis, and Chicoutimi. For more details, check www.angelforrest.ca. More dates are in the works, as Angel says, "I am fully charged and ready to roll".

Forrest harkens back to when albums were 12" vinyl's and the music lovers bought the album, at least in part, for the artwork. Check out the cover on "Mother Tongue Blues". It's a digitized version of an actual painting created by artist Karine Bassal. Forrest hopes to display it as a full size backdrop during her concerts. She feels the small CD size doesn't do it justice. Her 2010 "Come Alive" release included a 'special edition' CD that was packaged LP size.

While Angel Forrest contends that the title of her new album "is not about politics or about being political", inevitably some of the songs do touch on Quebec's cultural diversity. She sees it more as a positive thing than a drawback. In the title track, she expresses the hope that whether her listener is French or English that they will understand what her songs are about. She adds, "that it's the best place in the world to live". "Living It Up" speaks of the senseless attack on Premier Pauline Marois the night she was elected.

"Mother Tongue Blues" songs cover the gamut from reintroducing herself to her fans and the blues in "How You Do", to tributes to her husband on "Morning Star", "Holy Man" and "Listen", to a song about fellow blues artist Layla Zoe on "Blue Fire Girl". Other songs strike a chord on a more personal level: a song about her daughter, another conceived when her mother passed away, and about a broken relationship when someone can't move on. "Roll on Down" reflects on her time in the music business and how much she loves it.

Sessions were recorded in the Eastern Townships at Morningstar Studios and Martin Deschamps' studio. Promotion for the album won't include any videos…for now. Angel and Denis contemplated recording one in studio, but "things were moving so fast that there wasn't time to interrupt the creative flow", according to Coulombe. A live concert video could be in the works though.

Look for an Angel Forrest tour bus at your local concert venue. She is planning on conquering in 2013! In the meantime you can pick up her latest release online on iTunes and Arcambault.ca as well as HMV and Renaud-Bray.


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