Album review: Têtu, by Le Vent du Nord

Têtu
Têtu

There are certain phrases that hold massive magical power with me, people. “Great Big Sea is coming to town”, for one. “Let’s go out for sushi”, for another. “I just read and loved your latest book,” that one’s a contender. My favorite over the last couple of years, though, is hands down “a new album by Le Vent du Nord”. Têtu is album number eight for mes gars, and the sixth one with the lineup of Nicolas Boulerice, Olivier Demers, Simon Beaudry, and Réjean Brunet (counting four studio albums, the live album Mesdames et messieurs, and my beloved Symphonique)!
You may take it as read at this point that yeah, I’m going to adore anything these boys do. That goes without saying, since I’ve spent a whole lot of energy here on my blog and on social media not being able to shut up about them. But when they drop a new album, I get to actually back up my fangirling with evidence. I get to talk about not only adoring the music of this band, but why I adore it, too. And despite this post I made earlier today, I do not really have the French vocabulary yet to talk properly about this album. So I’m going to do it in English.
Overall picoreview first! This is the longest Le Vent album yet, with a total of 15 tracks, and there’s a whole lot to love with each one. After all the time these boys have spent playing together, they’ve pretty much got this down to an art and a science, and it shows here. Têtu is a tight, expert production, one in which the joy of the music shines through on every note. If you’re a fan of this band, you’re going to relish this album. If you’re not a fan yet, I submit for consideration that this would be an excellent album to use as your first introduction to them. Instrumentally and vocally, les gars are at the top of their game. And there are particularly high quantities of Simon Beaudry singing lead on things, and that’s always a good thing.
And now, track by track commentary behind the fold!
Continue reading “Album review: Têtu, by Le Vent du Nord”

Pour mes amis du Quebec!

(I just posted this to Facebook, where most of the Francophones I know are most likely to read me. But because I am a completist, and because I want to save this for later, I’m posting it here too!)
Aujourd’hui je veux pratiquer mon français! Attendez! Ce sera longue. ;)
Vous pouvez demander, mes amis d’Internet, pourquoi une femme américaine et anglophone, aime tellement la musique traditionnelle du Québec. J’écris beaucoup sur ça déjà en anglais, mais ça, c’est facile. Aujourd’hui je veux écrire sur ça en français!
La première chose: je pense qu’il est bon d’apprendre d’autres cultures. Les Américains, nous ne faisons pas souvent ça comme nous devrions. Les gens du Québec sont nos voisins, et ils partagent l’Amérique du Nord avec nous. C’est bon à connaître vos voisins. Et la musique et la langue sont deux voies merveilleuses à le faire.
En particulier, il a été mon honneur et mon plaisir à rencontrer plusieurs musiciens québécois. Ceci me donne les visages, les noms, et les gens vivants. Cela rend réel. Et je pense, ces gens, ils sont gens splendides. Je veux respecter et apprécier eux.
(Et c’est un signe de mon respect que je m’excuse à Olo et André et Éric quand mon français et poche. ;) Je ne peux pas m’exprimer en français parlé, pas encore. Je dois travailler de m’exprimer en français écrit. J’apprends encore!)
La deuxième chose: je suis un écrivain. J’aime des mots. J’aime des langues. Et une nouvelle langue entière–c’est un nouveaux voie de voir le monde. Il y a magique dans ça. Magique pour un lecteur comme moi-même, de voir le monde. Et pour un écrivain, de parler du monde.
Seriéusement, savez-vous comment mon cerveau s’éclaire quand je pense de tous les livres de SF québécois que je n’ai pas lu encore? Toutes les histoires que je pourrais dire si je maîtrise la langue? :D
Et la troisième chose, et véritablement, la chose plus importante–la musique? C’est magnifique. Elle parle à mon cœur. Elle parle à mes pieds et les incite à danser. Elle parle à mes mains et les incite à jouer les tounes. Et elle parle à ma voix et l’incite à chanter.
Pour ça, j’aime tellement la musique traditionnelle du Québéc. Oui, je suis américaine–mais pour cette musique, un part de moi devient française.
Merci pour ça, les gars. <3

Fun with tunes and whistles

Dusty Strings is a dangerous place!
Any acoustically-oriented musician in the Seattle probably already knows this, of course–and I myself have mentioned this before. But it was driven home to me again this past weekend, when Dara and I went in to get her a proper shoulder strap for the Godin A5 fretless bass we finally got her as a late Solstice present!
This is a sexy, sexy bass, you guys. But also surprisingly heavy! So we wanted to make sure to get a strap that could support its weight and not kill Dara’s shoulder while she plays it. We fully expected Dusty Strings would provide, and they did indeed. We got her a nice leather strap with a padded section for her shoulder.
But what I did not expect was that a blackwood whistle made by Sweetheart would leap into my fingers and go “HI I’M COMING HOME WITH YOU.”
One of these, specifically. Dusty Strings had two of them, one in rosewood and one in blackwood, and since I’ve been more interested in whistles lately I started playing around with them while Dara experimented with straps.
The rosewood didn’t seize me. But the blackwood did, with some surprising clarity and power to its tone. And wow, it carried well in Dusty String’s instrument room. I could see this being an instrument I could use to make myself heard in a room full of fiddlers and accordion players. Maybe not a session cannon–I’m not that powerful a player–but perhaps a session pistol.
For shots of what the instrument looks like, side by side in a couple of them with my carbon fiber whistle for comparison, hop over to the Blackwood Whistle gallery on annathepiper.org!
And here’s what the instrument sounds like. I did a few snippets of recording with my phone last night, playing around with bits of “Ciel d’Automne”, one of my favorite tunes by André Brunet, who as I’ve said before writes lovely flute-friendly tunes.
First, this is me doing the tune on my small D carbon fiber flute. Because while I am having fun learning whistles, I’m still way more comfortable on a flute. And I wanted to show this for a comparison of tonality as well.

Second, this is my carbon fiber D whistle.

Last but not least, here’s the blackwood whistle! There’s better clarity here than on the carbon fiber whistle–possibly because this thing is a bit heavier as well as being wider in diameter. So the feel of it in my hands is closer to what I expect with a flute, and I don’t have to work as hard to figure out what amount of air to put through it.

So this is all fun and I’m going to greatly look forward to bringing this new whistle to a session!
And if you want to hear “Ciel d’Automne” in all its full La Bottine Souriante glory, go find their album Xième, which was also released in the States under the name Rock and Reel. This has the distinction of being the first André Brunet tune I ever fell in love with, so it’s got a special place in my heart!
EDITING TO ADD 12/27/2018: Since I had to remove the whistle pics from Flickr, I have edited this old post to point at the gallery of the same pics I made on annathepiper.org. Previous references to the Flickr versions of the pics have been removed.

Le Vent du Nord at the Rogue, Vancouver, BC 2/23/2015

As you know, O Internets, in the ongoing dearth of Great Big Sea shows in my life, I have turned to the joy and consolation of the principle of “Any Band With a Beaudry gets me across the border”. Which of course means mes gars of De Temps Antan–who last year broke my personal record of “How many times I visited Canada in one year to see the same band”–and most definitely, Le Vent du Nord!
By now the Rogue in Vancouver has a very warm place in my heart, since I’ve seen both Le Vent and De Temps Antan there twice each. This time around the venue was not set up with tables, which surprised me! But Le Vent did sell the place out, so it does not surprise me that they wanted to get as many people in there as possible. And most importantly, they did leave space for us to boing by the stage as we liked. That’s important, you know.
As for the show itself–it’ll surprise exactly no one that I enjoyed myself immensely. Particularly because this show included five, count ’em, five brand new songs that’ll be on the forthcoming new album, AND because we got the rare and unexpected treat of Olivier Demers taking a break from his usual masterful fiddling to demonstrate that he also plays guitar. AND: “Papineau”, a multi-layered turlutte that showcases all four of the boys’ voices to splendid effect, is now officially one of my top favorite Le Vent songs and that album isn’t even OUT yet. Everyone was in excellent voice and high spirits, band and audience alike, and by the end of the proceedings we had quite the crowd dancing around to “Au bord de la fontaine”. It was AWESOME.
In-depth show proceedings behind the fold!
Continue reading “Le Vent du Nord at the Rogue, Vancouver, BC 2/23/2015”

Yet another De Temps Antan road trip: Operation SWING!

Let it be officially noted: De Temps Antan has now officially COMPLETELY STOMPED all over Great Big Sea’s record for “Most number of times in one year that Anna has gone north over the border for the express purpose of seeing a band”–because they’re coming back again to BC in November. And I’ll be scampering up there for two, count ’em, two shows!
They’re hitting the Rogue again, which y’all may recollect was where they played this past February after Festival du Bois, a show at which many delightful shenanigans were had! AND they’re going to Cumberland, to hit the very same teeny tiny venue where last I saw my boys of Le Vent du Nord.
Because I mean honestly, if my Quebec boys keep wanting to come to BC so often, it just behooves me to scamper up there to see them, as much as my available time off will allow. As I have said before, there are critical principles here of Bands With Bouzouki-Wielding Beaudrys to uphold here! Especially given Great Big Sea’s until-further-notice hiatus. A girl’s gotta get in her bouzouki SOMEHOW.
This will be a rather more complex road trip, though! Dara will be coming up with me for the show at the Rogue, but then taking the train back while I proceed on to Cumberland. Seattle friends Dejah and Michelle are also eying hitting the Rogue show, and there’s a strong possibility that Vancouver-based friends may be showing up at the Rogue as well. And in between shows I’ll be buckling down for hardcore writing work, with periodic outbursts of practicing, because you better believe I’m coming up there with flutes.
And it pleases me immensely to be gathering together folks from both Great Big Sea fandom AND Quebec trad fandom. Just call me Anna the Piper, Rallier of Fandoms, and Instigator of Vertical Movement and La Danse Verticale. :D
I’ve already gotten time off approved for these shenanigans, and have elected to take the entire week of November the 10th off. Which will give me plenty of time to get home after the show on the 12th, and decompress over the following weekend. And post the obligatory trip reports and pictures.
And this time? THIS TIME I will not forget Jean-Claude. It is important, yea, VITAL I TELL YOU, to not forget your mammoth on road trips to see bands from Quebec. It is KNOWN.

De Temps Antan in Qualicum Beach, BC 8-2-2014

This weekend I engaged in my lightning-strike road trip up to Canada and back–specifically, to Qualicum Beach to attend a music workshop, house concert, and post-concert session, featuring my boys of De Temps Antan!
Which meant I got up at 4:30am on Saturday morning and spent pretty much all of the morning in transit in order to get to Qualicum in time for the workshop. And I spent pretty much all of Sunday in transit home. But the time in between? Stupendous levels of awesomeness, and worth every minute of the hours I spent on the road and on ferries! For the chance to learn more tunes from André Brunet, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Continue reading “De Temps Antan in Qualicum Beach, BC 8-2-2014”

And now, what happens when a Quebecois trad fangirl is on pain meds

She comes up with this, is what! Because I figured that if I was going to whine about my mouth hurting from the dental adventures this past week (spoiler alert: sinus infections that spread over to your teeth are not fun), I could at least whine about it in French, and set it to lyrics.
The result? Une petite chanson qui s’appelle “Ma bouche est malheureuse”!
Ma bouche est malheureuse, oh guai! Ma bouche est malheurese! (bis)
Mon dentiste a travaillé et j’ai mal aux dents
De deedle deedle dum deeda deedle deedle ow day
Mon dentiste a travaillé, oh guai! Mon dentiste a travaillé! (bis)
J’ai mal aux dents et j’n’peux pas jouer de la flûte
De deedle deedle dum deeda deedle deedle en calisse! day
J’ai mal aux dents, oh guai! J’ai mal aux dents! (bis)
J’n’peux pas jouer de la flûte, le flûteau, la même chose!
De deedle deedle dum deeda deedle osti day
J’n’peux pas jouer de la flûte, oh guai! J’n’peux pas jouer de la flûte! (bis)
Le flûteau, la même chose, et j’n’peux pas chanter les chansons
De deedle deedle dum deeda deedle tabarnak!
J’n’peux pas chanter les chansons, oh guai! J’n’peux pas chanter les chansons! (bis)
J’n’peux pas boire le vin, j’n’peux pas avoir la bouteille
De deedle deedle dum deeda deedle osti en calisse!
J’n’peux pas boire le vin, oh guai! J’n’peux pas boire le vin!
J’n’peux pas avoir la bouteille si mon dentiste dois travailler
De deedle deedle dum deeda deedle char de marde!
Si mon dentiste dois travailler, oh guai! Si mon dentiste dois travailler (bis)
Donnez-moi le Vicodin et me réveille quand c’est fini
De deedle deedle dum deeda deedle deedle zzzzzzzzzzzz
I shall soon be following this up with “La fille joyeuse et son mammouth”. Because Jean-Claude requires a song. REQUIRES, I tell you.

Festival du Bois trip, Day 1: Saturday!

My belovedest Dara and I have done the trip up to Vancouver quite a few times at this point–but still, it’s a bit rough getting up at stupid-o’clock in the morning in time to get on an early bus, go all the way down to King Street Station, and get on a train to go all the way up to Vancouver. There was quite a bit of yawning involved.
But then, with Festival du Bois waiting on the other end, I was quite willing to spend my Saturday morning snoozing on a train!
As always, our friends Geri and Rob kindly put us up for the weekend at their place. This time around, we brought Rob a bottle of Scotch by way of a “thank you for letting us snooze here!” gift. (That, and I’m sure their dog was happy to have two extra pairs of hands to throw the ball down the stairs.) And, this time around, Geri elected to come to the festival shenanigans with us on Saturday!
My only regret? Realizing only after we were on our way north that I’d totally forgotten to bring Jean-Claude. AUGH. For the best, though, since the weather was wet and cold and let me tell you, Internets, there’s nothing quite as pungent as the smell of wet mammoth.
(Full deets and pics behind the fold!)
Continue reading “Festival du Bois trip, Day 1: Saturday!”

Album review: Ici on fête, by Various Artists

Ici on fête
Ici on fête

I owe a large debt of gratitude to my friend Melanie in Montréal for alerting me to the gem that is Ici on fête, a recently released live compilation album featuring a broad swath of bands and artists in the Quebecois trad genre. This thing features not one, not two, but FIVE of my top favorite Quebec bands, all of whom I’ve posted about in glowing terms as you all know. La Bottine Souriante! De Temps Antan! Le Vent du Nord! Genticorum! And Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer!
It’s pretty much only lacking Galant tu perds ton temps to be a stunningly accurate summuary of my entire collection, really. And while I must sadface at the lack of that fine group, there is much consolation to be found in several other familiar names out of my collection here–Les Batinses, Mes Aïeux, Nicolas Pellerin, Yves Lambert & Le Bébert Orchestra, Les Chauffeurs à Pieds, and Michel Faubert.
Melanie pointed me at this communique about the album, from which I learn that the redoubtable M. Faubert (whose voice I came to know as part of the Charbonniers) is a driving force behind the collection. He in particular is represented on three of the tracks, and he’s in excellent voice in all three, setting the bar very high for everyone else’s performances–and, happily, every other artist on the album meets and matches him.
Tracks 2 and 3 all by themselves make this collection worth the price of admission for me. Y’all already know I’m a De Temps Antan fangirl, and hearing them whip through a live take of “Buvons mes chers amis buvons” is always fun. But what really blew my socks straight off is La Bottine Souriante’s track 3, “Le p’tit porte-clé”–which I immediately recognized as the song I know as “Le ziguezon”, a very early footstomper from La Bottine’s first couple of albums, recorded with André Marchand singing lead. “Le ziguezon” is one of my regular repeat favorites, and to hear it sung by Éric Beaudry here, doing it fine lively justice, made me want to start stepdancing through the streets of downtown Seattle.
Of course I cannot talk about my favorite tracks without talking about Le Vent du Nord. They’re here too, checking with a very strong take of “La fille et les dragons”. This is a song I’ve experienced as its studio take as well as on both of Le Vent’s live albums–but not with a drum track, which was a startling and fun addition, though I wouldn’t want to make a habit of that. (The drum track, after all, rather drowned out the laser precision of the feet of Olivier Demers. And we can’t have that, now can we?)
Genticorum also represents, with a take of one of their earlier instrumentals, “Cascou”, from their album Malins Plaisirs. The only lament I have about this performance is that Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand is not playing his flute on this set. But since he is cutting loose on the bass, that lament is actually fairly small. I’ve seen and heard that bass with my own eyes and ears, people. Five-stringed fretless basses are love.
And then there’s Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer, who offer up what to my ears is a treat indeed: a song of theirs that I do not, in fact, have represented on any prior album of theirs I own! The song is called “Tout l’monde est malheureux”, and it flips back and forth between morose and full harmonic speed. My ear for a song is tugging at this, convinced I’ve heard it before at some point, but I don’t currently have anything else by the same title–so if some other band I’ve purchased music from has recorded this, they did it under a different title. Clearly I’m just going to have to listen to my entire collection again until I find it. Oh darn.
“Souliers rouges” was another song I immediately recognized, though here it’s performed by Manigance, and I’m familiar with the version by La Volée d’Castors. Still, I find it great fun to hear different artists’ interpretation of the same song (the aforementioned “Le ziguezon” is a great example of this, given that I’ve got a version of that by Mauvais Sort in my collection too!). This time was no exception.
Les Tireux d’Roches, as if to console me for the lack of Genticorum’s flute firepower, handed me some of their own and filled my ears with glee. And harmony, for that matter. Very much liked their take of “Maluré soldat”. I’ve got a bit of this group represented in my collection now, but I didn’t have this song yet, which is one on of their albums I have not yet acquired. I shall be rectifying this problem at my earliest opportunity.
I was quite pleased, too, to see women take the lead on the singing at least on a couple of the tracks, so I’ll call them out both by name here: Mara Tremblay on “La chanson du bavard”, and Angèle Arsenault on “J’ai un bouton sur le bout de la langue”. This wasn’t quite enough consolation to make up for the lack of Galant tu perds ton temps, but it did help!
All in all the album is upbeat in spirit, which is befitting a release targeted for the holiday season (c.f., the communique I linked to above). While the material here isn’t specifically holiday-themed, it is nonetheless quite festive–one of the things that made me fall in love with this entire genre of music to begin with.
So if you’re looking to get into Quebecois trad, Ici on fête would be an excellent place to start. Investigation leads me to find it only available to a limited degree–it’s on iTunes, but only on the Canada store, here. And if you want to order the album from Amazon, I’d strongly advise hitting Amazon.ca in particular, since the Amazon.com site has it at import prices. You’ll get it much more cheaply from Amazon.ca, here. (Note the slow delivery time. But also note that Amazon.com right now isn’t showing the album in stock at all.)
Quebec listeners can get it from Archambault digitally here as well as on CD. Renaud-Bray is also carrying the disc here.
Outside of Quebec though, your easiest bet will be to try to scarf an iTunes gift card for the Canada store and buy it that way. It’ll be a hard hunt, but if you can find it, your ears will be rewarded.