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Funny, ballsy, the type of old-school dame who can get away with wearing a three-piece suit and hold her own with the gents. That’s Treasa Levasseur. Now she has completed a third full-length album which represents both a return to her roots and a gutsy move into uncharted territory — and she’s cheerfully titled it Broad.
“There were a few reasons for naming the record Broad. First and foremost, in the movie of my life, I’ve never been the ingénue,” she insists. “I’m not the one who gets the guy, I’m the one who gets the scoop — less pretty lady and more the trusted Girl Friday. If I were a Hepburn, I’d be Katherine, not Audrey... I'm a lot more interested in being smart than I am in being cute.”
Levasseur also says she also named the record Broad to reflect the many musical influences the various players and producers brought to the table. The new album — a summary of where her music (and her life) is at the start of a new decade — was created with the singer working with four bands, four different producers, in three studios in two different towns. “Making four bands sound like they all belong on one album was the hardest — and the most rewarding —part of this project,” she explains.
“I’ve had the chance to play with so many people over the years, and I really wanted to celebrate all those connections on this record. At the same time I wanted — needed — to give myself a chance to branch out, explore new musical spaces, and let things evolve organically.”
Broad is Levasseur’s third full-length album, and it’s a remarkable collection of new songs (with three covers, from Randy Newman, Neil Young and a fellow independent artist, Mike Evin) that are sometimes playful, sometimes vulnerable, occasionally in your face — and always sincere and deeply felt.
On four tracks on the album, she’s accompanied by the internationally acclaimed Ottawa-based band MonkeyJunk; these songs were produced by the band’s harp player, Steve Marriner. Toronto blues band Raoul and the Big Time appear on three songs produced by bass player Terry Wilkins, and there are two tracks produced by veteran roots music artist Ken Whiteley.
Levasseur’s own hand-picked band, The Daily Special, is produced by guitarist David Baxter and features Champagne James Robertson on guitar, Paul Reddick on harmonica, drummer Brad Hart and bassist Brian Kobayakawa. Guests on the album include Suzie Vinnick, Roman Tome of New Country Rehab, and roots singer songwriter David Celia, to name a few.
The new recording is certainly blues based, while at the same time honouring the songwriting tradition she cut her teeth on in the folk world. She burst onto the scene in 2006 with her first recording, Not a Straight Line, and it was an unabashed singer-songwriter folk record
Two years later, she released the Juno Award-nominated Low Fidelity, a tougher, harder CD which was powerfully influenced by trips to Memphis, Tennessee, where she spent time with many of the musicians who had created the Stax sound. The record earned critical acclaim in Canada and abroad.
On one of her most recent visits to Memphis, she recorded tracks with the cream of the city’s studio musicians at Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios which — in her typically contrary fashion — she released earlier this year as a 45 rpm vinyl single called The Memphis Sessions.
Levasseur remains one of the most versatile of artists, drawing from a deep pool of influences, from Brill Building pop to Muscle Shoals soul, and all points between — and she’s been compared to Laura Nyro, Bonnie Raitt, Carole King and Marcia Ball. Above all, she simply wants to play, and in addition to gigs with her own regular musicians, she cheerfully makes the time to play with at least three other bands on a regular basis.
Born in Winnipeg and raised in North Bay, the fluently bilingual artist has made her home in Toronto for many years, and proudly identifies as Parkdalian — Parkdale may be less than glamourous but it’s the “artistic” heart of the city . As a singer, pianist and accordion player — and on-stage storyteller —she has become a well-established part of the city’s busy independent roots music community.
She’s succeeded in making a major contribution to the scene in Canada, and she remains equally determined to take her music to the UK and Europe, and initial forays proved that audiences respond enthusiastically to her voice, her songs and her stories. She’s already performed in Ireland, has tackled touring in the US (she played the main stage of the prestigious Philadelphia Folk Festival last year), and she plays across Canada on a regular basis. She will be appearing as part of the 25th anniversary Women’s Blues Revue at Massey Hall this November.
I have a brother, guess what he said
He said live for the music, til the day that you’re dead
A troubadour always finds a way to get fed
That’s what my brother said
With an unmistakable voice, a sassy attitude, and smarts to spare, Treasa Levasseur is a broad to be reckoned with. She’s no shrinking violet – she’s a garden in full bloom – colourful, varied, beautiful, full of life, and above all, one of a kind.
In short, a terrific broad.