Neo Nouveau’s crafty Courtyard
By BOB GULLA  |  May 13, 2008


Big chord changes and bigger melodies mark Neo Nouveau’s second stellar album, Courtyard, released a few weeks back. The Providence threesome — Chase Leonard (Percussion), Titus DosRemedios (voice/guitar), and Laurent Valliere on bass/voice — love the kind of listener-friendly but still forceful power pop that recalls the Byrds, the Posies, and more recent bands like Spoon and Fountains of Wayne. Formed from the wreckage of local outfits Holiday, the Quiet Turnaround, the Johnny Lingo Band, and Cowgirl, Neo Nouveau has stripped it bare this time out, highlighting their shimmery melodies in the process.

While their notable debut, The Forks & Knives (2006), was thick and heavily crafted, Courtyard — completed without the contributions of former member Dylan Ryder, who left for Western Samoa with the Peace Corps — is a solid trio recording, spare and engaging, with lots of ingenuity and enough Beatles chords to put a smile on your face. Recorded with Jon Downs (Brother Kite), the album rocks in spots with tracks like “My Dad’s Best Friend’s Daughter” and “Lovely Demon,” but isn’t afraid to step away from the amps and let the notes resonate, sometimes in the same song. After repeated listens, the recording settles in nicely, and Neo Nouveau’s creations gush with clarity and resolve.

It’s a shame then to note that the band does not have a follow-up slated. In fact, the plan is just the opposite — to hang it all up, at least for now, purportedly to spend more time with family, friends, careers, and side projects. This is too bad, given the luminous music on Courtyard. Still, you have a few more opportunities to catch this talent and these sweet songs in action. Check myspace.com/neonouveau for updates.

Another disc that drops this weekend is Turn a Page by rootsy singer-songwriter Otis Read. Though he’s been on the scene for many years, this is Otis’s first batch of singer-songwriter tunes released to the general public. The collection, written over the last 30 years, includes eight penned during a prolific four-year stint in Italy that ended in 2002.

All local all the time, the disc was performed by a close cabal of Rhode Island artists and recorded and produced by Alex Krepkikh (who also played dobro and acoustic guitar) at his Providence studio. The cast includes Peter Breen (bass), Mike D’Albergaria on drums, Cathy Clasper Torch (fiddle), Phil Edmonds (Irish whistle), Liam Dailey (banjo), Jim Corwin (guitars), and Chris Brooks (pedal steel). Together, the ensemble ornaments Read’s vibrato-less voice and hummable tunes with a detailed yet uncluttered backdrop. The juxtaposition of Read’s simplicity and his troupe’s colorful accompaniment is key to the success of Turn a Page. The overall feel recalls the melodic country-flavored folk of Gordon Lightfoot.

Read and friends will celebrate the release Turn a Page on Saturday, May 17, at the Nirvana Lounge in the India Restaurant on Main Street in Warren. Admission is $10. Call 401.245.4500.

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