Richard Laviolette Took the Long Way Home to Tara

 

Saturday night at Heartwood Concert Hall, Richard Laviolette will be celebrating the release of his first album in almost seven years.  Taking the Long Way Home is a reflection upon his growing up in a musical family in the town of Tara.

“I’m definitely someone who was shown consistent love and was raised in this situation where I was completely surrounded by music,” Laviolette told the Guelph Mercury.  His original intention was to create this album with his dad, Darrell, who had taught him how to play guitar and mandolin.  The idea was that they would write and record songs together in an exploration of his family and home as he was growing up.  But his dad couldn’t participate, his focus necessarily shifted to the care of Richard’s mom, Marie, who recently passed away after a lengthy period suffering from Huntington’s disease.  Marie was one of eight siblings, five of whom were sisters, all of whom sat in together on family sing-alongs and jamborees. There is some irony in the fact that this is the same disease that struck Woody Guthrie, in some respects the prototype of the socially conscious singer-songwriter that pervades Richard’s own work, even if his more immediate influence is Neil Young.

 

“There is a deep sense of honesty and conviction ringing through my speakers through the multiple listens to

“Taking The Long Way Home

Richard began recording albums when he was a student at the University of Guelph.   His debut album was begun in autumn 2003 and released in 2005 under the name Mary Carl.  His second album, A Little Less Like a Rock, a Little More Like Home, was released on Burnt Oak Records in August 2006.

Burnt Oak records was a form of home for Richard for many years.  Organically grown in a house in Guelph, the label was founded in 2005 by local Guelph musicians as a cooperative effort for mutual benefit.  One of them was Chris Yang, a singer-songwriter that Richard had toured and become close friends with. Yang had started Burnt Oak Records  with Ryan Newell of the Guelph band Households and Brad MacInerny while they were all living in a house at 127 Grange St. in Guelph.

With a bunch of musicians sharing the house, it became the place for basement concerts and endless rehearsals.

“There were nine of us [living in the house], and five bands practicing regularly,” Yang told Lauren Raham, “Ryan and I ended up putting out our own CDs at the same time. … Our friend Brad threw out the idea to start a label and we all got on board. I was getting better at screen printing. Everything fell into place.”

Richard Laviolette came to a fully formed musical community and fit right in.

“They’ve introduced me to an approach to music that was more D.I.Y. and lo-fi, which wasn’t something that I had an ear for,” he said. “Meeting the gang at 127 Grange opened up my ears, and my appreciation for music.”

Those days seem long ago and many miles away now.  Years of dealing with health issues, chronic pain and surgeries led Richard back home to Tara to write about his family and his youth.

In his review of the new album for Canadian Beats, Gerrod Harris called it “a folk album to its core.  There is a deep sense of honesty and conviction ringing through my speakers through the multiple listens to of Taking The Long Way Home.  Hopefully this record will signify a greater return to what folk music is about; it’s not about adding a banjo or fiddle, or stomping on a wooden box, but rather it is about sharing a story in the hopes of creating a communal energy through honesty and blues inspired music.”

The great Jessy Bell Smith added vocal harmonies to the album and she will be sharing the bill with Richard again when he plays Heartwood this Saturday night.

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