MORRISBURG – “Audience members will want to bring their toe-tapping shoes when Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards come to the St. Lawrence Acoustic Stage March 22,” said Bill Carriere. “It’s going to be a fabulous evening of American roots music. And with engaging, spunky and versatile musician Melanie Brulée opening for Laura, well, what a night.”
It was a challenge to catch Laura Cortese actually at home.
Since February, she and band members Valerie Thompson and Mariel Vandersteel have been on a tour that has taken them from India to Uzbekistan. They were chosen to be one of ten bands sent abroad as members of the State Department’s American Music Abroad Program.
“The tour took us to a lot of exotic places: what we learned is that music really is a language that every culture speaks. Music allows you to connect with people at a much deeper level. The experience made me want to continue to develop that connection.”
An extensive tour, Cortese pointed out, “reminds you of how much you really love your own home and community.”
Home for Cortese was originally San Francisco, and later, to study at Berklee School of Music, Boston. Her true American roots, are part of her band’s critical and popular appeal.
“We are Americans,” Cortese laughed, “and we do go back and forth between a one/two punch of introspection and asking people to clap along with us. Our music is cheerful and exuberant, but in another moment can reflect something deeper.”
Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards are noted for their American roots style, but she claims that there are “so many shades of American music” that labels are perhaps limiting.
Her band mates and she grew up “experiencing different styles of traditional music. Certainly Appalachian music has inspired all three of us: it’s the root of American music, particularly country and blue grass.”
Cortese began with the violin.
“But I quickly realized that I didn’t like standing staring at a music stand.” A performance camp experience introduced her to the fiddle. She found her musical love.
“I learned that you could create on the fiddle even with others all around you. The fiddle brought humanity to music for me, connecting me with many, many people. The genre is never as important to me as the people.”
The band’s widely acclaimed 2013 album, Into the Dark, reflects themes that seem to intrigue and inspire the band. “Relationships, love, heartbreak; the human connection is vital to me.” Out of an early album, Acoustic Project, “I brought musicians together to explore what I felt was a unique sound, what a string ensemble can do if there are not so many rules, if it is allowed to explore the fringes.”
Valerie and Mariel joined her and “the team energy was phenomenal.”
Connecting with her audiences is itself an energizing experience for Laura Cortese. “We plan to put Saturday’s audience to work clapping and singing,” she laughed. “We want to connect that electrical circuit”
Melanie Brulée, opening for Cortese, “has a special place in our hearts” according to Bill Carriere. The Stage is where she feels she truly got her professional start. “It was the bouncing board to where I am now.”
Brulée is an up and coming, versatile, exciting young artist. From rock (General Electryk) to blue grass to cabaret, to country, “all these genres reflect me. They are all parts of my personality that I can explore musically. I don’t fit in boxes.”
An artist in both french and english, Brulée can do “over the top cabaret, or folksy music, or my new works, perhaps more mature, a bit softer, a bit darker. But,” she laughed, “don’t get attached. My music can change in a minute.”
Studying and performing in Paris, she wrote poetry, and has found in her poems, and those of others, inspiration for her compositions. “My songs are about what I saw, experienced, felt. (She has recently released the EP Sucré/Salé). One of the joys of music is making a connection with others.”
Audiences can make their connection with Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards, and Melanie Brulée on Saturday, March 22, at 7 p.m. at the Morrisburg Meeting Centre. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door. Contact www.st-lawrencestage.com.