Spruce Grove’s Elks Social Hall was alive with music on Friday, April 28 as Toronto’s Union Duke performed their eclectic blend of folk-country for dozens of music fans. While the Toronto musical ensemble may have been the headlining act, it was Stony Plain native and opening act Alex Vissia who really stole the show.
Vissia, dressed in floral polyester, bleached hair and a shock of deep red lipstick, returned to her Parkland County home for the first time in a number of years to showcase her unique blend of folk, jazz and country.
“This was the first time in awhile that I’ve been back here to perform. It was great to be asked to do this type of show, especially for the first time back,” she said. “I’ve played at a few pub-type venues here and a few years ago I played as part of Alberta Culture Days in Stony Plain, but it’s nice to be back here and playing for such an appreciative audience.”
Pedalling a soulful and sultry fusion of jazz, folk and country, Vissia’s stripped down solo guitar work lends itself perfectly to her voice, the real focal point of her performances. With a powerful voice that carries as much levity as it does depth, Vissia demands the attention of her audience.
While she currently performs as a solo act when not playing in Edmonton’s The Hearts and Bad Buddy, Vissia has a long history of performing throughout the globe. In her prior band, alongside her two sisters, Vissia performed during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, as well as toured in Japan and shared the stage with the likes of Harry Stinson and the Skydiggers. Her music has been featured on CBC’s Radio 2 Canada Live and she served as the face of ATB Financial’s ATB Listens.
Watching Vissia play, the first thoughts that emerged were the similarity her sound shared with country music legend, Patsy Cline. It’s a trait Vissia herself also recognizes in her music.
“I grew up with a strong country influence,” she said. “Everything from Patsy Cline to Gordon Lightfoot and the folkier side of things.”
Vissia came on board for the show after longtime family friend and Horizon Stage manager Brandi Wurtz contacted her about opening for Union Duke.
“I’ve been busking at the Edmonton International Airport from time to time, and someone there saw me play who knew Brandi and they connected and all of a sudden I got this email about the show and I was thrilled,” Vissia said.
A natural-born musician, Vissia has pursued her passion formally as well, having attended post-secondary school for music. It was there she said she found the love of jazz that has helped to influence her guitar skills and added the smoky, jazz-folk sound she’s become known for.
“I was thrust into this jazz work and that’s helped to shape my guitar playing quite a bit. Right now, I fit into that folk-rock genre. The artist I’ve found myself most influenced by tend to be people like Neko Case, Wilco and people in that circle.”
With a number of releases under her belt, including her 2011 solo debut album, A Lot Less Gold, Vissia is about to release her next album this September.
“I have a new album coming out in September of this year and it’s called placeholder. I’m going to be posting more about that; it’s a brand new, nine-song, original album, so I’m looking forward to that.”