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Danielle Duval’s first release is full of her friends: They are ‘Of The Valley’

by Carey Rutherford

Danielle Duval is on tour with her second professional release with her friends and her acoustic guitar. You’ve got to hear it.

Ms. Duval’s music invites you into her world. Image courtesy of the artist.

“This is my first album,” she tells us, as her first release was an EP. “I’ve recorded tons of stuff over the years. Basically I feel like all my recordings have been theses; a means to an end.”

MUSICAlive! asks her ‘Why now?’

“I was playing a show at the Rivoli (a Toronto club), and the guy who was doing our sound, Carlin (Nicholson), came up to me at the end of the night and said, ‘I’ve got this studio across town: why don’t you come by sometime?’ And I did.”

We wonder: Why haven’t we heard from you before this really good CD?

“I just really kept quiet for awhile, I guess. I do my thing, and I’m not big on self-promotion, so I just toiled away, and wanted to wait for the best moment (when) I had a record which captured the essence of me in the best way. . . . This is just the time.”

We ask Danielle about the very rhythmic guitar playing we hear throughout the songs; musical, but not specifically melodic.

“I have a very rhythmic way of playing. My dad was from South Africa, and I got exposed to a lot of South African jazz as a kid: there was heavy rhythm there, and all the music I grew up listening to really influenced me. So when I started playing guitar, I very quickly switched to bass guitar in the band I (played) with at 15 in Montreal.. . . I really feel like there’s a way I want to express myself on the guitar that it comes out that way.”

“You can’t come any closer, ‘till you know what you’re ready for,” Ms. Duval tells you by the second song on Of The Valley. Then in a high-paced, alt-rock following track, “Day Becomes Night,” the fast rhythm guitar and fuzzy lead keep pace with her very interesting vocal lines. Is it folk-pop? Is it a less suicidal Melissa Etheridge?

Duval certainly has the same level of lyric talent, using tasty word-bites like: “When the day breaks night into dust,” “I bought a ticket at the wicket in the market of kings and thieves,” “Ambulance, I’ve got a mind emergency,” all the while using the guitars she plays to create a rhythmic foundation that leads the drums and somewhat old-school instrumentation in ways that one doesn’t normally hear.

Especially interesting and effective are the harmonies which lead many songs (she is occasionally listed for both ‘Lead Vocal and Harmonies), Danielle says that “Harmonies are my specialty, and I absolutely just love doing them, . . . and the only way to practice for a long time is to practice with yourself, because no-one else can put up with it (laughs). Actually most of the harmonies on the record are sung by my twin, Jessica Grassia: We have (very similar looks) and almost identical voices when we sing harmony.”

But even though the acoustic guitar and honky-tonk piano occasionally build a folk-rocky shuffle, rhythmic underpinnings of other songs are funky or have the rock-out openings to keep the music extremely engaging and individual. And a little backwards guitar and sci-fi sound effects don’t hurt.

Danielle and friends are touring through Calgary with Royal Wood on September 20th at the Ironwood, and then on to:

NELSON, BC – The Royal 21/09
VANCOUVER, BC – Electric Owl, 22/09
KELOWNA, BC – Minstrel Cafe, 26/09
RED DEER, AB – The Hideout, 27/09
EDMONTON, AB – The Artery, 28/09
SASKATOON, SK – Bassment, 29/09
KINGSTON, ON – Octave Theatre, 07/10
MONTREAL, QC – Petit Campus, 12/10
TORONTO, ON – The Rivoli, 20/10