In 2011, a strong new contender rose to challenge Great Big Sea for my musical affections: the entire genre of Quebecois traditional music! GBS is in fact responsible, along with many other aspects of my life, for my discovering Quebec trad. The very first show I ever saw GBS perform at also included the mighty La Bottine Souriante, and that was the initial seed for an affection that has finally exploded into a passion to rival my beloved B’ys. Those of you who know how much I love GBS will know that I do not use this phrasing lightly!
Seven Quebecois bands command the majority of my attention, though my fast-growing love for this music is surging out to pull in a lot more albums as well. All of them have two big things in common with GBS, i.e., vigorous performances and richness of harmonies. Quebecois bands though have two extra things that I greatly love: podorythmie and mouth reels.
The first of these comes from how, in Quebecois music, the feet are instruments. You’ll get a band member parked in a chair and tapping away like crazy on a board in front of them, laying down complex rhythms to support the rest of the band. It’s incredibly fun to watch, especially when the person in the chair is also playing a fiddle AND singing. It’s such an incredible physical expression of music that I cannot help but respond to it.
Mouth reels are also awesome, and come from the Quebecois tradition of how musicians settling the province would often not have been able to bring their instruments with them–so they made do by vocalizing the melodies they knew. So now, a Quebecois band will frequently work a mouth reel section into a song–-or make that the entire song. It works extremely well when done in conjunction with a full-blast instrumental reel. These are called turluttes on all the tracks I see them on, and they rock.
+10 to Awesome for all Quebecois bands as well for singing in French! It’s Quebecois French, which is significantly different from Parisian French in some ways, but I’m nonetheless greatly enjoying starting to learn some of the language.
And now I present for you…
le vent du nord
Le Vent du Nord, my current favorite Quebecois band, is leading the way for me on not only trying to learn a bit of Quebecois French, but learning to play along with them as well. LVN boast four excellent musicians, most notable of whom are their lead singer Nicolas Boulerice, who plays a hurdy gurdy, and their fiddler Olivier Demers, who is also their podorythmie guy.
A recommendations post I wrote for an intro to Le Vent’s music is here.
And you should also very, very definitely get hold of their album Tromper le temps, which I reviewed right over here! I particularly adore “Manteau d’hiver” on that album and have been working on learning it!
la volée d’castors
Very, VERY hard on the heels of Le Vent come La Volée d’Castors, “the Flight of Beavers”, who in some ways I actually like more than LVN on the grounds that their live album rocks. These are the guys that could go head to head with GBS.
My rec post for La Volée is here.
les charbonniers de l’enfers
Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer are a concentrated blast of everything I love about Quebecois music–-because they are a capella and specialize in the mouth reels and the podorythmie! Bonus points for having two of their guys be early members of La Bottine Souriante, so I recognize both their voices now on when I jump back and forth between the Charbonniers and La Bottine.
Their recommendations post is right over here.
de temps antan
Another of the (male) groups I’ve picked up on out of Quebec are De Temps Antan, a trio. It is also tickles me greatly that De Temps’ bouzouki player is in fact the brother of the aforementioned Monsieur Beaudry, which has now insured that any Quebec band with a Beaudry in it will have my immediate and undivided attention.
I go more into yakking about these boys on their recommendations post!
galant, tu perds ton temps
Quebecois trad is heavily male-dominated, but not exclusively, to my delight. The girls of Galant, Tu Perds Ton Temps are holding their own territory on my playlists and I am delighted that they exist. Because girls. Because YAY I can sing in their ranges!
More on the Galant girls here!
la bottine souriante
I cannot do a fangirly page about Quebecois bands without giving a shout out to La Bottine Souriante, “the Smiling Boot”, who are mighty indeed as I’ve mentioned above. They’ve had several member changeovers since I saw them, but I was blown away at the time by the sheer wall of sound that their brass section produced, not to mention the voice of their lead singer Yves Lambert. I am getting caught up now on La Bottine’s current membership roster–which includes the same Éric Beaudry who’s in De Temps Antan! Again: HIGHLY relevant to my interests!
La Bottine gets their recs represented here!
Another trio, Genticorum is duking it out hard with De Temps Antan for the position of Anna’s Second Favorite Quebec Band. They aren’t as overtly powerful in style as DTA, but they are very nimble with both their instrumentals and their harmonies–in no small part due to the excellent, and I do mean excellent, flute playing of Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand!
(As a flute player myself, I am particularly in awe of Alexandre’s musical ability!)
album review posts
With all of the bands mentioned above and their various recommendation posts, I thought I’d also toss in links to various reviews I’ve done of specific albums. Those are: