She’s been compared to Hank Williams and Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Edith Piaf, but Montreal’s Bobby Dove is making her own way with her unique country/roots sound.
Dove has been playing in and around Montreal off and on for close to a decade, hosting open mics and playing in bars and cafes. She spent some time playing with the Honky Tonk Heartbreakers, whose front man Eddie Blake took her under his wing, taught her how to communicate musically with the other musicians in the band, and, most importantly, introduced her to country music.
Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Townes van Zandt, Guy Clark, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens: these are the musical gods and goddesses to whose ranks Dove aspires. As she told me, “I don’t just admire them. From an artistic standpoint it’s important to me that I touch things that they have touched, and play in places they’ve played. It’s like a religious pilgrimage. Maybe it will keep me closer to a certain genre but I see all those artists also doing whatever the fuck they want.” Dove acknowledges that her own current sound—telecaster, bass, drums—an electric band playing roots/country music—goes back to the Bakersfield aesthetic: “They took country and made it more twangy.”
She doesn’t, however, want to be identified with one style for her whole career: “I can’t wear one hat or stay in one camp for too long. Like Lucinda Williams, who started doing blues and country but then went in many different directions, from rock to Spanish influenced. I can see that happening with me. I adore Lucinda Williams: she’s a singer-songwriter. She performs her own material. She can rock it solo and rock it with the band. She’s still hot, still reinventing herself. She’s a survivor.”
For the time being, however, Montreal’s country/roots scene is where Dove’s star shines brightly. She released her first, self-produced CD, in spring 2013. Some of the songs fall squarely in the country camp (Loving You is Wrecking Me) and others veer more towards roots (Rock N Roll Queen). But of course the line between the two is blurry and ever-shifting. Some of Dove’s songs are easy to pin down, like the (as yet unreleased) Another Dog Gone Day, which, as Dove says, can only be called a country song, since it’s about a dog. But other songs reveal the flexibility and huge potential in Dove’s evolving aesthetic.
Dove is hoping to release her next CD in the near future. She wants it to have “a little more bite, more twist, zing, crunch, and twang.” In the meantime, Montrealers can hear her play regularly at the Wheel Club, Grumpy’s, Bar de Courcelle, and l’Escalier. My advice: catch her act while you can, because at the rate she’s going, she won’t be here for long.
Bobby Dove and her band play Bar de Courcelle (4685 Notre Dame) on August 27 at 9 p.m. Free