Quebec band recommendations, round 2: De Temps Antan!

This being the last of my second round of recommendation posts for my top seven favorite Quebec trad bands. I’ve been specifically sitting on this one until now–because, ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs, this one is for De Temps Antan, who are dropping a brand new album this very week!
Y’all know already of course that I’m a devoted Le Vent du Nord fangirl. But De Temps Antan’s boys are fighting it out hard with Genticorum’s for the coveted position of Anna’s Second Favorite Quebec band, in no small part because DTA features the double powerhouse punch of André Brunet on the fiddle (because of the small number of tunes I know how to play, two of them are his, I’m just sayin’) and Éric Beaudry (for many and varied reasons, all of which basically add up to because he’s Éric goddamn Beaudry, and Beaudry is French for awesome). Like Genticorum, DTA is a trio that does a hell of a job pretending to be a band much larger than they actually are. I can point at several reasons for this: Éric’s powerful bouzouki and guitar (especially the bouzouki; you haven’t heard a bouzouki being rocked out upon until you hear Éric playing his), how something about the combo of fiddle and accordion often tricks my ear into thinking there’s an extra fiddle in there just because of how the harmonies work, or how getting three guys going at once on podorythmie gives you an instant percussion section.
But big energetic vocals help, too. Pierre-Luc Dupuis has a rich, wry baritone that often makes him sound like he’s on the verge of breaking into laughter, while André brings in the high, clear end of the range and Éric has a way of sneaking up on you with smokier, subtler backup. If these boys’ voices were alcohol, I’d be putting Pierre-Luc down as a full-bodied port, André as crisp, sweet cider, and Éric as the smokiest of Scotch. And at the end of any DTA album, this pretty much means I’m well and thoroughly soused on harmony.
As of this week DTA has three albums to pick from, and I’ve got a review post on the way for the new one, Ce monde ici-bas. (Spoiler alert: I like it and you should buy it! Look out in particular for “Adieu donc cher cœur”!) If you were to pick up a single album of theirs to check ’em out, I’d definitely recommend getting that one.
But the two previous ones, À l’année and Les habits de papier, both have a great deal to recommend them. Here’s a handful of my favorite tracks from those albums:
On À l’année:

  • “Chère Léonore”, a delicious, dark-timbred slower song on which Éric sings lead, because this band’s motto appears to be “Let’s give Éric all the moody slower songs”. I approve of this as a general strategy.
  • “Buvons, Mes Chers Amis Buvons”, a drinking song that does fun things with interspersing vocals with instrumental bits. This is also one of the few things I’ve heard Éric sing lead on where he actually sounds cheerful.

And from Les habits de papier:

  • “La turlutte du rotoculteur”, the song that completely sold me on these guys. I’ve posted about this one before–starting off with layering in all three voices on a kickass turlutte, bringing in the feet, and finally kicking in to a fiery instrumental treatment of the same melody line for the second half of the song. Plus, finger work on the bouzouki, which ALWAYS makes me swoon. I mean, seriously, look at these guys go!

  • “Pétipétan” is serious bouncy fun, and a challenge to sing along with, at least for this Anglophone fangirl. Don’t quote me on this but I suspect it’s a challenge to sing along with for the Francophone fans, too. And, having seen the boys do this one live now, I have it directly from Pierre-Luc himself that the title translates to, in English, “Petipetan”. ;)
  • “La Fée des Dents” is a gorgeous, lovely waltz. That I can actually PLAY! We do this one pretty regularly in our session group, and I have great fun trying to make up harmony parts to the latter end of this track. The title translates to “Tooth Fairy”, and I’m given to understand that André wrote this one for his kid. (heart)
  • “Grand Amuseur de Filles” is a cappella, again with Éric on the lead vocals, and this one packs a punch. It’s extra fun to see them do it live, too, when André and Éric jump out of their chairs and start having a stepdancing stomp-off!

For my fellow Stateside listeners, DTA’s stuff is available for digital purchase on iTunes and Amazon’s MP3 stores both (though in the latter case, they don’t have the new album yet as of this writing, so you might need to keep checking back). But if you want to go with physical CDs, you should go straight to the the band’s own online store page and buy from them. That way they’ll get the most money. And do give them your moneys. Because goddamn, these boys can play!
Find ’em on Facebook or Twitter, and as always, tell ’em Anna the Piper sent you!

Quebec band recommendations, round 2: Le Vent du Nord!

Y’all knew THIS one was coming, right? What with the whole “I haven’t been able to shut up about these guys for the last several months” thing? Because yeah, let’s talk Le Vent du Nord. Hands down, uncontested, kings of my favorite Quebecois bands. The guys who are going head to head with Great Big Sea for Anna’s All-Time Favorite Band EVER. I gushed enthusiastically about them when I first found them. I adored the album Symphonique, and I fangirled Tromper le temps seven ways from Sunday.
So yes, it should surprise absolutely none of you that if you ask me “So Anna, I want to check out Quebec trad music, who should I listen to first?”, my instant answer is going to be “Le Vent du Nord”!
Many and varied are the musical reasons, but primary among them are Nicolas Boulerice’s mastery of the bitchin’ metal hurdy-gurdy solo, their toe-curling four-part harmony, and their humor on stage when explaining songs to English-speaking audiences. Not to mention that I have personal experience now with how awesome they are to see perform live.
And I could write entire dissertations on the theme of Jesus jumping Christ, Olivier Demers can play him some fiddle. That guy? That guy right there? That’s the guy who’s making my fingers itch to pick up my flutes and try to cram as many Quebec tunes into my brain as possible. The guy who inspired me to transcribe “Manteau d’hiver” just because I love that tune so much I had to figure out how to play it. The guy who, because he is just that awesome, gave me his permission to ask him musical questions. BEST. FIDDLE. PLAYER. EVER.
It should also surprise none of you that my unequivocal recommendation for “which Le Vent du Nord album should you get first?” is Tromper le temps. For the love of all that’s holy, get that album. In no small part because it’s got the aforementioned “Manteau d’hiver” on it, but it’s also got “Le dragon de Chimay”, and I’ve written before about how I’m obliged to love the hell out of that song because it involves a knight being transformed into a dragon. A DRAGON, YOU GUYS. Why yes, I DO love a little bit of fantasy in my trad, thank you. :D
If you can find it, I also cannot recommend Symphonique passionately enough. It’s the only Le Vent album not available digitally to US customers, though, so if you want it, you’ll have to order it–or maybe show up at a Le Vent du Nord concert and buy it from them directly. (Which you should do. And tell them Anna the Piper sent you!) For one thing, it’s an excellent live album. For another, the juxtaposition of Le Vent and an orchestral backup is lush and gorgeous and it’s got three of the top repeat tracks on my Le Vent du Nord playlist. As a former student of symphonic band and wind ensemble in my school days, I adore the orchestral backup. I adore it like kittens, and have to sternly remind myself that next March, when I get to see Le Vent do a live symphony show, that no it is not socially acceptable to use stealth technology to hide in the flute section so I can make off with the sheet music. (But I digress.)
If you go poking further through Le Vent’s discography, it’s important to note that they did go through two prior membership changes before settling on their current lineup. Here are my notable tracks on the various previous albums!
Their very first album, Maudite moisson !, is worth listening to just because that one features vocals by Bernard Simard, who does have a gorgeous champagne-like tenor voice. And it’s got the original versions of “Vive l’amour” and “Au bord de la fontaine”, which have survived as concert staples for the group.
Album #2, Les amants du Saint-Laurent, drops M. Simard but gains Simon Beaudry, and I’ve already gushed enthusiastically about M. Beaudry’s vocal skills. This album’s worth a look for “Cré-mardi”, one of my all-time favorites, but it’s also got “Le retour du fils soldat” and the title track as well, both of which show up in current Le Vent concerts.
As of album #3, Dans les airs, they drop Benoit Bourque but gain Réjean Brunet. So anything in the discography as of Dans les airs or later gets you the current membership of the group, and that’s the point at which their vocals really kick into high gear for me. On Dans les airs, look for “Rosette” and “La piastre des États” as standout vocals performances by Nicolas and Réjean, but also look for “Le vieux cheval” for more KILL ANNA DED WITH HARMONY loveliness. Instrumental-wise, look for “Petit rêve III” (which I can play, woo!) and “L’heure bleue”.
Album #4, La part du feu, adds “Lanlaire” to the Le Vent arsenal and that’s hands down one of my favorites of theirs. But this album also unleashes “Octobre 1837” (c.f. previous GODDAMN Olivier can play him some fiddle commentary), “Les métiers” (ridiculously bawdy fun, this one), and especially “Rossignolet”, which is haunting and beautiful and one of my top repeat Le Vent tracks.
For live Le Vent you do actually have two options–the aforementioned Symphonique, but also Mesdames et messieurs, which is their live concert from the Memoires et Racines festival in 2008. Kickass version of “Au bord de la fontaine” on there, and there’s guest support from Bernard Simard on “Vive l’amour” as well.
Ultimately, though, I stand by my rec of Tromper le temps for which album you should get first!
Find the boys at their official site, their Bandcamp page (where you can stream a lot of their current stuff AND find helpful lyrics in both French AND English), on their Facebook page, or on Twitter. Tell them I sent you.
And in closing, here, here’s Le Vent doing “Le dragon de Chimay”!

Quebec band recommendations, round 2: Genticorum!

And now we come to the one band of my top seven about whom I had not previously done a recommendations post, an oversight I shall now be correcting with great pleasure. Because, O Internets, it’s now time for me to enthuse about Genticorum!
You’ve seen me post about these boys already, how I got a flute lesson from Alexandre and then got to see them perform live and then got to go to a house party they were at. You’ve seen me review their new live album. And if you’ve been reading my various tunes posts, you know I’ve got several Genticorum instrumentals queued up on the list of Stuff I Want to Learn How to Play.
Because yeah, I love me some fiddle players and all, but Genticorum? They’ve got the flute player. The one who makes the noises I can actually best try to make myself. The one who’s personally taught me tunes. They’ve also got the guitar player who contributed to my Kickstarter! These things are Important and means I can attest that not only are these guys all great musicians, they’re great people as well and you should buy every one of their albums. :D
Wait, you want me to get specific? Okaaaaaaay fine. As you might guess from my review link I adore the new live album and do heartily recommend it, if nothing else for the KILL ANNA DED WITH HARMONY wonderfulness that is “La rouillette”, which is not currently available on any of the studio albums they’ve put out. But if you want to go studio, go Nagez Rameurs. Partly because not all of Genticorum’s discography is easily available to US customers–only the last three albums are available for MP3 purchase on iTunes and Amazon. But partly also because Nagez Rameurs has some assistance in the credits from none other than Le Vent du Nord’s Olivier Demers, and if you’ve been paying attention to my blog for more than five minutes running, you know that particular gentleman has already won from me the title of Best Fiddle Player Ever. So I have to endorse purchase of anything he had any involvement in whatsoever. (My musical favoritism, let me show you it!)
ETA: All this said, I listened to La bibournoise on the way home tonight and there’s a lot of strong stuff on that album, too. So if you like Nagez rameurs, by all means, get this one too! My preference for Nagez rameurs is only in degrees of awesome–because trust me, both these albums are highly enjoyable.
Favorite Genticorum tracks, off the top of my head:
“La rouilette”: As previously mentioned, for KILL ANNA DED WITH HARMONY wonderfulness. Note: the Genticorum boys skew higher on their ranges, so they’ve got tight, sweet harmony rather than thunder-rumbling low harmony, but that’s absolutely okay as far as I’m concerned
“La chasse”: Big lively number on the live album, also has a strong studio version on their first album, Le Galarneau (but that one’s hard to find, so if you want to hear this song, get the live album)
“Genticorum”: Self-titled song, also from Le Galarneau, but which has some great harmony and call and response in it
“Turlutte Hirsute”: On Nagez Rameurs, fun juxtaposition of turluttes and instrumentals
“Valse de Poeles”: Also on Nagez Rameurs, a slower instrumental. I can play this one! :D The backstory on this one in concert is fun, as the boys tell the story of how this one was written when they had to move some stoves
“Violon Guerisseur”: Yet again, on Nagez Rameurs, an excellent instrumental set
And here, have some videos so you can actually see and hear these boys in action! The La rouilette goodness (can’t embed this one, so I’m linking to it)! And here, here’s “Brandy culotte”, which appears on the album La Bibournoise:

ETA: This just in–here’s another video, straight from Genticorum themselves! This is the first of three from the same concert that Enregistré Live is from, the tune “La Finno Gaspésienne”, which is definitely one of my repeat tracks from the album.

Lastly, I must give a shoutout to Alexandre’s other musical project, which is the band Mélisande, led by his wife, and who I’ve also had the pleasure of seeing perform. Mélisande is a splendid singer and she and Alexandre are assembling what promises to be a good strong band on the new album they’re putting together. They’ve got a bit more contemporary feel going on with their music, so do consider checking them out too!

Quebec band recommendations, round 2: Les Charbonniers de l'Enfer!

I said it before and I’ll say it again: goddamn, the gentlemen of Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer can SING. When it comes to hardcore fangirling, okay yeah, I’m flying my fangirl flag VERY high for Genticorum, De Temps Antan, and especially Le Vent du Nord… but musically speaking, the Charbonniers are right up there fighting it out with the younger boys for whose albums I play the most.
If you want to check out Quebec trad, you cannot go wrong with anything these gentlemen have recorded, but my earlier recommendation stands: get their live album. And in particular, get it in physical form if you can, because En personne comes with an awesome concert DVD. Mind you, okay yeah, the concert’s in Quebec, so all their between-song banter is of course in French. Yes, that’s going to be challenging for French newbies like myself. I don’t care. Get the DVD anyway just for the sheer fun of watching the Charbonniers perform. Having actually had the pleasure of seeing them live myself now (merci beaucoup, Memoire et Racines!), I’m here to tell you: they’re huge fun.
(And I’m considering it an eventual master class of practicing my French ear to eventually figure out what the hell the band is saying to each other in that concert, anyway. They’re clearly being hysterical, given how the audience is cracking up. There’s an entire lengthy sequence towards the end of “Everybody’s going to give Normand Miron a stern talking-to” banter in particular that’s fun to watch just for everybody’s expressions! And I will figure this out, oh my yes.)
And the other fun thing about the DVD is actually a bonus feature that comes on it–a featurette in which the Charbonniers went down to New Orleans for a performance down there, and they spent a lot of time just geeking out with folks of Cajun ancestry down there, about shared musical traditions and how much French the younger folks they ran into know and such. It’s a lovely little thing to watch.
Here’s a recent live vid of the Charbonniers (circa last year), so you can get a real nice idea of what they sound like from this:

Now, if you actually do want a studio album, I’d say either go with (which has strong studio versions of most of the stuff on the live album), or with À la grâce de Dieu, which has several excellent tracks on it–and in particular, “J’aime bien mieux ma mie et sa chemise”. On which Michel Bordeleau sings lead and y’all know how I swoon for the harmony? HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS the harmony on those choruses. There’s harmony there that rivals “River Driver” and “General Taylor” and “Le retour du fils soldat” for killing Anna DED.
ALSO: it’s well worth mentioning that since pretty much everybody in this band is a veteran of the genre, you can find them all over the place on other albums. Michel Bordeleau, André Marchand, and Normand Miron all do double duty in the group Les Mononcles as well. Michel Bordeleau and André Marchand are of course both former members of La Bottine Souriante, so you can hear them both on earlier La Bottine albums. And André and Normand also have excellent albums with fiddler Lisa Ornstein, which are well worth your attention. And Normand also has some work he’s done with Bernard Simard and I DO love me some Bernard Simard vocals too.
So yeah, if you start looking around the genre at all, you’ll run into these names a LOT. Absolutely justifiably, because they are consummate musicians. Especially André Marchand, who as near as I can tell appears to be the Nick Fury of Quebecois Trad, in how he’s working with a lot of younger musicians and passing down his know-how.
TL;DR summary: Jesus hopping Christ on a pogo stick the Charbonniers can sing, and you should give them All the Monies. Preferably enough to get them to come west for shows so I can see them perform more often!

Quebec band recommendations, round 2: Galant, tu perds ton temps!

Here we have another band who dropped a new album since I put up my original recommendations post about them: Galant, tu perds ton temps!
As with previous posts in this series, pretty much everything I said in the first one for the Galant ladies still holds true–with the notable exception that they do have a shiny new album out, Soyez heureux, which I reviewed here. And now that they do have that new album out, I need to update my “What album should you get?” rec for them–because yes, you should absolutely get this album if you’re interested in checking out this group, just on musical strength alone. (The other two albums are also available to US customers on digital markets, but if you’re going to pick one album, get this one first.)
They’ll be a bit more challenging to follow for newbies at French like myself, since so far I haven’t been able to confirm whether they have publicly available lyrics–I’ve only been able to find lyrics to one of their songs so far, and they don’t have any posted on their website. But if you don’t consider that a drawback, then absolutely, give these ladies your listening attention. As I said in the album review post, I adore the complexity and precision of their vocals. And they all have distinct and lovely voices as well, which blend beautifully in those many layers of harmony.
As you can see here, courtesy of bordurat on YouTube (source of MANY excellent Quebec music vids), you can see the group performing the title track off the new album:

Though I’ll link to this one again as well, “Les promesses du galant”, just because it IS one of my favorites off the album before:

Find the Galant ladies on their official site, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Go check ’em out!

Quebec band recommendations, round 2: La Bottine Souriante!

As I’ve written before, La Bottine Souriante has the distinction of being the first Quebec band I ever saw perform live, and I said a great deal about them on this post over here. Most of what I had to say there still stands, with some notable exceptions.
First and foremost, as of this writing, La Bottine’s discography has become available for digital purchase on both iTunes and Amazon’s MP3 store! So if you’re a US fan of Quebec music like me, your chances of finding a La Bottine album have now improved considerably.
Which of course brings me to the question of what album should you get? The answer to that’s going to depend on what era of La Bottine you want to investigate, since they seem to come in four overall eras to their sound. I tend to break La Bottine down into “Yves Lambert era” and “Eric Beaudry era”, both of which have their massive appeal to me.
Yves’ Lambert’s era is classic La Bottine, and saw the rise of their mighty, mighty horn section. M. Lambert’s era also saw such seriously impressive musicians as André Marchand and Michel Bordeleau being in the lineup. This era is well worth your time, and if you want to sample it, I’d highly recommend La Mistrine as a studio album at the height of the band’s power in that era. Or, En spectacle for a marvelous live performance. Especially the opening “Ouverture” track, which features what’s kind of the canonical La Bottine tune–Sheepskin and Beeswax, one of the ones I’m trying to learn. I LOVE how they fire this one up, with the rumble out of the bass, then layering in the feet and the melody, until at last the horns start punching in with syncopated goddamn glory and oh, it’s wonderful.
The Eric Beaudry era kicked in with the album J’ai jamais tant ri, and at least as of that album, La Bottine also had Pierre-Luc Dupuis singing a lot of the lead, as well as André Brunet’s fiddle firepower and occasional lead singing as well. All three of these boys have gone on to form De Temps Antan, of course–so that particular La Bottine album rather sounds like “De Temps Antan plus a horn section”. This is not a bad thing!
If you want to get an idea of what La Bottine sounded like as of that album, check out this YouTube fan vid. It’s somebody’s almost entire vid of a La Bottine concert, in which you get to see Eric, André, and Pierre-Luc all rocking it the HELL up. There’s a jumbotron. There’s crowdsurfing. It’s AWESOME.

Now, I tend to prefer classic La Bottine over current, but that said, Eric Beaudry IS right up at the top of the list of Quebec musicians for whom I want pretty much every note they ever recorded (he’s fighting it out with Olivier Demers for the top spot on that list!). As I’ve also mentioned before, any band with a Beaudry in it gets my immediate and undivided attention. M. Beaudry’s vocals are splendid, and he is an amazing bouzouki player. In fact, musically speaking, he is my current favorite bouzouki player, and I do not say this lightly–as anyone who knows I’ve been fangirling Alan Doyle for the last 13 years knows! So his contributions to La Bottine are not to be underestimated in the slightest.
So if you go with Beaudry-era La Bottine, get their most recent release, Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée. I have a full review of this album right over here. I am madly, madly I tell you, in love with “Au rang d’aimer”. I’m trying to learn that one on the guitar. And yes, it’s one of the tracks M. Beaudry sings lead on. You may now show me your lack of surprise faces, Internets. ;)
Also, I’ll add that if you want to track what happened to other members of La Bottine who are no longer in the band, the aforementioned Yves Lambert is still doing music, and he’s got excellent albums available here. Michel Bordeleau and André Marchand are both now in Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer, deploying their massive vocal talent, and they’re also doing double duty as two of the members of Les Mononcles, where they’re doing instruments as well as vocals.

Quebec band recommendations, round 2: La Volée d'Castors!

I posted back in 2011 about my recommendations for La Volée d’Castors, who remain one of my top favorite Quebec bands even though they’ve more or less gone inactive. Much of what I said in that previous post still holds true!
But since I did that post I did in fact pick up their holiday album, L’album du temps des fêtes, because I am a completist that way. And I have to admit that it was great fun to hear French interpretations of otherwise familiar-sounding holiday songs, as well as some things that weren’t familiar to me at all. And there’s some fun almost 50’s-style vocals on one of the tracks on that album, too, which was particularly surprising in the context of Quebec trad and the holidays.
Also, I must call to your attention this excellent video from 2003, which is of a VDC concert. The band’s in great form here and you’ll hear several of the tracks that appear on the albums VDC and Migration. Look towards the back to spot Réjean Brunet, now of Le Vent du Nord, on the bass!

My previous favorite songs and albums of theirs still stand, but I can also note that it’s come to my attention that three of the gentlemen previously involved with VDC are now involved with a new group, La Cantinière, and they’re about to drop a new album which is available on bandcamp over here. So if you like the vocals in VDC, this should be well worth your attention as well!

A guide to Quebec trad for English speakers

Internets, as you all know, I’ve been happily fangirling Quebec traditional music for a couple of years now, and quite a few of you have started to ask me questions about it. And because I like you, Internets, and I want to share with you the musical goodness, I’d like to present for you a Guide to Quebecois Traditional Music for English Speakers!
Q: What is Quebecois traditional music?
A: A very close cousin of Irish/Celtic trad. If you’re a fan of Irish or Scottish music, you’ll probably find Quebec trad very compatible to your tastes; there’s a lot of overlap between the two genres.
Q: What makes Quebec trad differ from Irish/Celtic/Scottish/etc.?
A: Three main differences, which are:

  1. Podorythmie. With most Celtic bands the percussion will usually be handled by a bodhran player, who may double up on shakers or bones. There may or may not be an actual drumkit depending on how far into rock the band in question slants. With a Quebec trad band, though, the percussion is almost always handled by someone who does podorythmie, the rhythmic footwork that’s a big signature sound for the genre.

  2. Call and response. Quebec trad is very heavily structured around call and response, where you’ll have whoever’s singing lead echoed by the rest of the band. Relatedly, you’ll find a great number of Quebec trad songs structured in such a way that the first line of a verse will be called, then responded, and then the verse will finish up with a chorus and then a second line which will then roll over into being the first line of the next verse. (This is a very helpful song structure when you’re a newbie to French and you’re trying to figure out how to sing the words!)
    Now, sure, call and response isn’t unknown in Celtic trad in general–but I’ve seen it be a LOT more common in Quebec trad. It makes the songs highly participatory and that’s one of the big reasons I love singing along to the songs so much.

  3. Turluttes. You’ll find a lot of Quebec trad songs will have a turlutte section, sometimes small, sometimes dominant, and sometimes as the entire song. Turluttes are when you get a singer or group of singers vocalizing a melody that in other traditions might be played with instruments. You’ll also hear this referred to as mouth music or mouth reels, similar to puirt à beul or lilting.
    As the Wikipedia link I’ve pointed at in the previous paragraph calls out, turluttes are built out of a set of specific phonemes–a lot of t and d and l and m sounds. They’re almost always up-tempo and joyous and great, great fun.
    A truly splendid example of turluttes in action can be found sung by Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer right over here, with bonus podorythmie solo in the middle.

Q: How is Quebec music similar to Irish/Scottish/Celtic music?
A: Lots of Quebec trad will be familiar to Celtic music fans just because there’s a rich heritage of tunes, jigs/gigues, reels, etc. There are some fun musical and stylistic differences that instrumentalists will notice–particularly how many Quebec tunes are often played “crooked”, doing interesting things to time signatures and varying up the rhythm. If you’re an instrumentalist you’ll want to listen for that.
Likewise, a lot of the topics of the songs will be familiar to Celtic music fans. Alexander James Adams has been often quoted (in particular by me!) as saying that the three main categories of Celtic music are Whiskey, Sex, and Death. This is also true of Quebec music, although from what I’ve seen in Quebec music, it’s more like Wine, Sex, and Death, with a side helping of Religion. (I’ve noticed quite a few songs involving shenanigans that involve priests, for example. ;) )
Q: Do I need to be able to speak French to appreciate Quebec trad?
A: No! Certainly no more than you need to be a Irish or Scots Gaelic speaker to appreciate Celtic music, anyway. I find that studying a little bit of French enough to let me get an idea of how Quebec trad lyrics go enhances my appreciation of the songs considerably, but you don’t have to go to the lengths I’m going. A lot of the most active bands in the genre post lyrics to their websites, often in both French and English, and even if they only post the French lyrics that’s enough for you to throw the words through a translation engine.
And there’s fun stuff to be found in the lyrics, too. Plus if you do that, you get to be one of the Anglophones in a Quebec trad concert who can start snickering at all the best bawdy bits of songs!
Also, turluttes are language-agnostic!
Q: Enough overview! Who are some bands or artists I can check out?
The ones I’m most fond of are La Bottine Souriante, La Volée d’Castors, Galant, tu perds ton temps, Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer, Genticorum, De Temps Antan, and especially Le Vent du Nord!
And if you have trouble telling all those names apart, I can direct to you to this handy flowchart I made for that exact problem!

Quebec Band Flowchart
Quebec Band Flowchart

For a nice crossover of Celtic and Quebec fiddle styles, I also highly recommend Celtic Fiddle Festival, who feature André Brunet of De Temps Antan. There are also a couple of excellent albums done by André Marchand and Grey Larsen, specifically on the theme of crossover between Irish and Quebec music, and I recommend those too. You can find them here.
I will update this FAQ with new data as I think of it. I did overviews on my favorite bands a while back but I’ll be posting new ones as well, since several of the bands in question dropped new albums since I originally wrote those posts.
Any questions I haven’t covered here? Shoot ’em at me!

Quebecois band recommendations: De Temps Antan!

These guys are the newest of the (male) Quebec bands I’ve picked up, both in terms of how long they’ve been active as a trio and how long I’ve been aware of them. They are also proof of my newly learned truth that any Quebec band with a Beaudry in it will have my IMMEDIATE AND UNDIVIDED attention! Because once I realized that Éric Beaudry, the brother of the lovely Simon, is himself an awesome bouzouki player, I was all over pulling these guys’ albums down from iTunes.
Monsieur Beaudry is the main draw for me here, just because of my fondness for the bouzouki, and it’s great fun to hear one used as a primary rhythm instrument in a trio. But that said, the other two boys in the band, lead singer Pierre-Luc Dupuis and fiddler André Brunet, are not to be discounted either. M. Dupuis has a nice full, rich voice, and M. Brunet (who, I note, is the brother of Réjean over in Le Vent!) rocks him some fiddle.
Since there are only three members of the band, the instrumentation is accordingly sparser than the other groups I’ve been listening to, but this doesn’t mean there’s less vigor. In addition to M. Beaudry’s bouzouki, M. Dupuis apparently likes him some harmonica, and the combo of those with the fiddle works very well.
Like with this YouTube vid of their song “La turlutte du rotoculteur”, which is the first one of theirs that I seized on. The layering in of their vocals, then the footwork, and finally M. Beaudry going at it on the zouk, I said? SIGN ME UP.
De Temps Antan have only two albums available so far, À l’année and their newer one, Les habits de papier. Both are available on iTunes and Amazon MP3 downloads, and good news for those of you who are fond of buying from indie sites–the newer album is also available on CD Baby! Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Archambault.ca all have the newer album in physical form, but between Amazon.com having it at import prices and the likelihood of big shipping charges if you’re not in Canada, I’d personally vote for CD Baby first out of these.
Or! De Temps’ own site sells both albums directly, so really, you should try them first. :D (And oooh, they have T-shirts. This may well be Relevant to My Interests!)
Since there are only two albums to choose from, if you want only one, go with Les habits des papiers. That’s the one with the aforementioned “La turlutte du rotoculteur” on it, which I’ve been playing a lot. I also like “Pétipétan” (good showcase of M. Dupuis’ voice) and “Grand Amuseur du Filles” (good showcase of M. Beaudry taking the lead vocals) from that album.
There’s good stuff on the other one too, though. On that album, “Chère Léonore”, “Intrinifor”, “Duvons, Mes Chers Amis Buvons”, and “Les Pissenlits Bricoleurs” are my repeat play tracks.
Last but not least, recent Googling let me discover that De Temps were actually in Seattle last year! To which I say AUGH, if I had ONLY KNOWN. However, this raises the hope that they might come back sometime soon. If they do, I am THERE.

Quebecois band recommendations: Le Vent du Nord!

Tonight at session, my friend Ellen (sutures1 on LJ) asked me if I’d give her some recommendations about all of the various Quebec bands I’ve been listening to! Since I’m always happy to share fangirly love, and since I’m also newly of the conviction that it’s good for an Anglophone’s mental health to discover awesome bands in a language she does not speak and to therefore be inspired to learn that language, I’m going to oblige.
Which means, of course, that I must first and foremost cover Le Vent du Nord.
It has been a hard, protracted battle between these guys, La Volée d’Castors, and Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer for the position of My Favorite Quebecois Band. However, right now Le Vent is winning for a few important reasons!
One, they have Simon Beaudry! As y’all have seen me gush on previous posts, I’ve got a huge crush on this boy. He plays him a lovely bouzouki and guitar, and sings beautifully as well. He’s the secondary singer of Le Vent, but what songs he does sing lead on are among my favorites. Like, say, “Lanlaire”!
(And besides, Chibi!Simon Beaudry is just the most adorable little guitar player ever. Somebody drew him an awesome Facebook avatar!)
Two, Le Vent’s lead singer, Nicolas Boulerice, plays the hurdy gurdy–and Unusual Instruments FOR THE WIN. His voice has a very distinctive timbre to it, and he’s got a great dynamic range in his style of performance; of the tracks he sings lead on, he goes from lively crowd-stompers to haunting ballads and back again.
Three, as I’ve also gushed in a previous post, Olivier Demers was kind enough to answer an email I sent him with a question about one of their songs, and that right there is worth massive amounts of Awesome. More importantly, though, he is Le Vent’s podorythmie guy AND fiddler, and the various videos I’ve seen of him doing both at the same time are mighty impressive. Also, he apparently gets to do all the charming intros to various songs explaining them to English-speaking audiences. :D
Four, since I’ve said nice things about the other three Le Vent guys, I should also mention bassist and squeezebox player Réjean Brunet, who as far as I can tell so far gets a bit overshadowed by the other guys–but hey, Internets, a good bass player is the backbone of any band, am I right? I particularly noted M. Brunet in a live vid I found of Le Vent doing an a cappella performance, wherein he got to take his turn singing lead on something; he’s got a very nice voice too, and it ought to get more of a chance to stand out.
Now, all this said, let’s talk albums. Most of Le Vent’s discography is available electronically on iTunes’ US site and on Amazon.com’s MP3 Downloads site; the only album of theirs NOT available in either place is the awesome Symphonique live album I just finally picked up. A quick check of the Canada, UK, and Australia iTunes stores confirms for me that the same set of Le Vent albums are available there as well. So for most of you likely to be reading this post, you should find them reasonably well available.
If you want to avoid both iTunes and Amazon, Le Vent’s own site links off to their Borealis Records page, where you can apparently also order the same albums that are available electronically. Downloads appear to be available but if you explore this route, be on the lookout for downloads possibly being Canada-only. Likewise if you order Le Vent albums from Archambault.ca, the site of a big chain store in Quebec. Note on that latter link: if you order physical CDs from them, shipping charges for a single CD may be higher than the actual CD price, so you may want to consider ordering more than one CD at once.
Now, though, if you just want to get one Le Vent album, which one to get? It’s important to note that Le Vent’s current membership configuration settled into place only as of their previous studio album, Dans les airs. So if you want an album that most accurately reflects their current sound, you should get either Dans les airs or La Part du Feu. I’d be hard pressed to choose between the two. Both have several tracks I’ve been repeatedly playing.
Le Vent’s first live album, Mesdames et messieurs, is decent–and noteworthy for having guest vocals done by Bernard Simard, a previous member of the band, who did a lot of lead vocals on their first album Maudite moisson!. However, if you want to go with live Le Vent, find the Symphonique album if you can! Since it’s not available electronically, you’ll probably have to order it if you’re not lucky enough to live near a store likely to have it in stock. It’s available here and here. And for the sake of thoroughness, please to note my full review post for that album–I very much enjoy this album and have been playing through several of the tracks repeatedly.
And now, a handful of my favorite Le Vent songs:

  1. “Écris-moi”, on La Part du Feu. Sung by M. Beaudry, a lovely little song in 6/8. Both French lyrics and the English translation are available here.
  2. “Lanlaire”, also on La Part du Feu. Another Simon song, which has an excellent performance on the Symphonique album as well, and which has figured prominently in my Le Vent vid watching! Note also that this is the song with the chorus I discovered is a bit less work safe than you might expect, if you translate it properly. ;>
  3. “Cré mardi”, on Les amants du St-Laurent. This is hands down Le Vent’s best crowd-stomper, belted out with vigor by M. Boulerice, and with an awesome extended turlutte as the entire second half of the song. Great fiddle and footwork here by M. Demers as well. This one appears on both of the Le Vent live albums and is the closer on the Symphonique one.
  4. “Rosette”, on Dans les airs. This was the first of Le Vent’s songs to get my attention, and was the first to sell me on the strength of M. Boulerice’s voice and on the smoothness of all four guys’ combined harmony.
  5. “Le vieux cheval”, on Dans les airs. My fellow Great Big Sea fans will know what I mean when I say that this song is kind of Le Vent’s “General Taylor”. It’s a shanty, and the harmony on the choruses (as of the second verse) is seriously swoonable. I’m pretty sure that’s M. Brunet hitting those rumbly bass notes on the bottom of the chorus, too, if we want to talk other reasons to fangirl over the bass player. ;)

Last but oh my definitely not least, my entire YouTube Le Vent playlist is right over here! I’ve dropped notes on a lot of these calling out why I like them. The “Cré mardi” vid in the radio studio is particularly awesome, as are the casual videos where the band is playing in the middle of a relaxed bunch of festival-goers.
ETA: I have discovered, O Internets, that the aforementioned chibi!Simon pic was in fact the work of Mr. Kevin Bolk! It was commissioned by fellow Le Vent fan Susan Moseley, whose acquaintance I have made on Facebook, and who had him do all four members of the group. Mr. Bolk, it is vital for me to note, is also the artist who did the Star Trek parody webcomic Ensign Sue Must Die!, about which I have previously squeed on this blog. Y’all go visit Mr. Bolk’s site and say nice things about his work, s’il vous plait!