It is an album of many moods. Play is a wild musical ride that takes us from the political to the personal via original atmospheric ballads, danceable pop, a punk rock song, a hard rock closer and a slice of vintage francopop worthy of France Gall. Oh, and a down-home cover of I’m Too Sexy.
And it’s the fourth full-length release from a Montreal-based artist we know well: Roxanne Potvin, blues singer.
“I was driving back from Quebec City a few weeks ago,” Potvin relates, “and I heard my song on the radio — the first single, You Told Me. And I got all excited — Oh, they’re playing my new song! But at the end, the announcer presented me as: ‘That was blues singer-guitarist Roxanne Potvin.’ To anyone that just heard that song, it’s clearly not a blues song. So it’s just confusing. But at the same time, I don’t have any control over that. I’ll just let the songs be what they are, and people can call them whatever they want.
“Having a 'blues player' label is not a bad thing. I just wish it was more accurate.”
It was. Once. Growing up in the city formerly known as Hull, the Regina native immersed herself in the history and lore of the blues, toting her guitar to jams and making a name for herself as an emerging blues voice in the capital while still in her teens. Two albums confirmed as much; a third, 2008’s No Love for the Poisonous, recorded while Potvin was living in Toronto, hinted at new directions but remained knee deep in the blues.
But a move the following year to Montreal, a few songwriting lessons and what Potvin calls a much needed break from “trying” to succeed within the music biz, rejuvenated the songwriter. Play marks the beginning of a promising new chapter for a reborn artist prepared to leave her blues behind. Even if radio announcers are slow to acknowledge it.
“It’s not that I don’t love playing the music anymore,” she says of the blues sounds that still figure into her live set. “It’s just at a certain point it became not enough. It was almost like I needed to push further. I needed to expand and I needed to grow and I needed to be curious and I needed to explore. And it was a very scary thing to feel, because I didn’t know how I would do that and I didn’t know where it was going to end up and I didn’t know if I was going to be any good at anything else. Everybody was telling me I was good at playing blues, so you should stick to that — Why do you want to change? It was a frightening process, and I think the last album you could sort of see that I had decided to do that, but I hadn’t attained the confidence yet. With this album, I came to a place where I worked very hard and I felt like I was more comfortable with what I had come up with and the natural direction that things had taken. I wasn’t scared anymore, of not doing blues.”
Hence, she adds, the album’s title. “I just want to play,” Potvin concludes with a smile.
There’s no denying it: This woman no longer has the blues.