One of the best B.C. independent LPs in over a decade
By Ferdy Belland
Velle – The Right Time (independent, 2016)
The recent international phenomenon of the British chanteuse Adele is no fluke: in this oftentimes-confusing modern pop-culture maelstrom of electro-pop, gangsta rap, EDM, bro-country, and dirge-rock, the honest truth boils down to how most people want to thrilled, entertained – and touched – by true soul, true sentiment, and true voices, uncluttered with auto-tuning and unsplattered with needless computerized trickery. Adele’s lifetime career is set; stay tuned now for Velle Weitman.
Velle’s debut album ‘The Right Time’ is indeed a much-welcome shock to the ears, if only due to her inescapably muscular talent that hits the ears from the first note to the last note.
Possessing a rich and powerful voice that pleasantly evokes yesteryear’s divas of both R&B and jazz (oftentimes achieving a wonderful balancing-point between Mae West, Aretha Franklin, Maria McKee, and Sheryl Crow, if you can dig it), Velle soars confidently from the baritone caverns to the falsetto stratosphere, which is no easy feat.
And her voice is framed by the respectably accomplished chops of her backing band of West Kootenay Wunderkinds: Adrian Dolan (piano), Don Clark (trumpet), Jason Deatherage (drums), Carl Erickson (saxophone), Aaron Weitman (bass), Michael Farnsworth (guitar), and Micah Snow (guitar)… no chumps here; no chumps allowed, especially when delivering this sort of music.
And what a sort of music it is. Velle’s stylistic breadth crosses a wide spectrum of familiar sounds and genres and never stales. ‘Looks Like Rain’ could have been a lost track on Carole King’s magnificent Tapestry album, and her breathy vocal delivery hooks you immediately with her tale of a love on the brink of being lost; great from the get-go. ‘Coffee Time’ is a saucy story of seduction, and yanks the listener right back into the barrelhouse days of spunky WWII-era jumpin’ jive.
The EP’s title track is a mid-tempo emotional burning, with Velle’s words of self-discovery, personal rebirth, and reborn love whirl one around in a lovely sonic twister; before you know it, three minutes are up and you’re wondering what the next song will bring.
That next song just so happens to be ‘Little Black Box,’ and its rocking Bo Diddley-esque stomp is yet another startling jack-in-the-box thrill; the album’s production-team of Adrian Dolan (the Wailin’ Jennys) and Wynn Gogol (Harry Manx) know how to cleverly evoke the classic ghostly echo-chamber studio approaches (much like Lee Hazelwood’s groundbreaking work with Duane Eddy) to make the song sound like it’s been in endless classic-rock rotation since Lester Pearson was Prime Minister (this is a great thing).
‘A Man Like You’ returns the feel to the bouncy turn-of-the-‘70s sound of Detroit and Philadelphia (imagine Berry Gordy barging into the boardroom where Gamble and Huff are arguing about what next hit song to release: “I got it right here,” Gordy drawls smugly, playing a recording of Velle’s ‘A Man Like You’). The traditional loving swing-jazz-with-a-Stetson of ‘Sunday Spurs’ provides a gleeful showcase for Velle’s accomplished violin (pardon me: fiddle) playing.
Velle’s album wraps up with a wonderful interpretation of the Billie Holiday classic ‘God Bless the Child.’ A top-rank standard for over 75 years, it’s difficult to tackle overly-familiar works, especially when immortalized time and again by legends such as Sam Cooke, Harry Belafonte, Diana Ross, Lou Rawls, Sonny Rollins, Stevie Wonder, and Eva Cassidy…but hey, what can we say? Velle nails it. Velle makes it hers. God bless the child, indeed.
All in all, ‘The Right Time’ stands as one of the best independent albums released by a British Columbia recording artist over the past decade, and a bright shining talent like Velle Weitman deserves far more than to remain enshadowed in the provincial backsticks. This writer hopes that Velle’s future includes the welcome embrace of urban R&B/jazz scenes across the nation; we’ll all be better for it.
Velle is performing this evening at Cranbrook’s Studio Stage Door at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at Lotus Books ($10 for seniors/students, $15 for adults – $15 at the door for seniors/students, $20 for adults).