La Bottine Souriante album review!

I’ve been anticipating the new album by La Bottine Souriante for weeks now, and WOO! It’s finally out! The album’s called Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée, and I yoinked that thing right down from iTunes as soon as I saw it go up.
For my first exposure to the band’s current lineup, it performed splendidly. I had an undeniable initial “buh?” reaction to several of the tracks–because I have of course imprinted on a lot of the earlier La Bottine albums as my example of what they should sound like, and that’s not entirely fair to the newer members. Yes, vintage La Bottine is a POWERHOUSE OF AWESOME, and those are mighty large (smiling, aheh) boots to fill. I’m now quite prepared to state that the newer members are also awesome, but you have to go in with an open mind and open ear. Since there are so many new people in the lineup, the overall flavor and chemistry of the band is not the same, and so it’s necessary to judge the current lineup on their own merits and less on how much they sound like all the people that came before them (though I’m not discounting that, either).
On the whole I do quite like this album. After the first listen, I was a bit dubious. But after two more, I found it growing on me considerably. Granted, I was predisposed to like it anyway just because Éric Beaudry sings many of the songs–but on the other hand, his presence in the vocals was actually also kind of confusing to my ear! I’ve gotten used to hearing him as part of De Temps Antan as well as on his album with his brother Simon, so hearing him in this context is something I’m not quite used to yet.
There are two other gentlemen singing lead on the album as well, for whom I do not yet have names, and both of them did a fine job. The presence of so many backup singers makes for nice round vocals on many of the tracks.
Instrumentally, overall, the horns are sometimes more subdued than I might like–but again, a good chunk of that is coming out of my exposure to vintage La Bottine. When I cut back on that reaction and judge the blend of the horns with the rest of the instruments they’re playing with, I feel much better about them.
And now, track by track reactions!
Cette Bouteille-Là – I really like this one, which was the first of the free tracks the band was offering for download just before the album came out. This has an excellent blend of all the instruments and voices, and some jaunty energy to it. This is a great track for showing how the current membership of the band are inheriting from the older members.
Mon Père – Ah and here we have Éric Beaudry’s first lead song on the album! This has strong vocals in general, not only M. Beaudry’s, but also all the backup vocals. Some great deep vocals in the background, and all of the voices are set off nicely against the percussion. I particularly groove on M. Beaudry hitting his high notes in the background on the very last few bars of the song.
Reel à Roland – This is an instrumental, and starts off sounding fairly standard until the horns start coming in on the second iteration of the A part. Once the horns and piano build up, you start thinking, okay yeah, this is La Bottine Souriante.
Le Gourmand – Back to M. Beaudry on the lead vocals, which is always a good thing, though this is one of the songs on the album that kept making me think “wait wait this isn’t a De Temps Antan song”? Mais non, because there are horns here, and a lot more backup vocals! Also, M. Beaudry is rather more expressive on his vocals here than I’ve heard him be with De Temps Antan so far, possibly because he’s doing more lead singing here.
Chus Chatouilleux – Good strong punch from the horns to start this one up. I don’t know who’s singing here since I don’t know all of the current lineup of the band yet, but the singing’s good. It’s a bit weird for me though since whoever’s doing this singing has an accent similar to the lead singer over in Mes Aieux, so I’m once again having to remind myself that this is in fact a La Bottine Souriante album. When in doubt, listen for the horns.
André Alain en sol majeur – Another instrumental. It sounds like there’s a keyboard in here, which is another thing I’m not used to yet with the current La Bottine lineup. There’s a bridge in the middle with a keyboard solo, which gives this piece an almost jazzy feel. I find myself wishing that the horns were doing more than just backing up the keyboard, though; I really want to hear some trumpet love on the melody line.
Au Rang D’aimer – Back to Éric! A more plaintive ditty, this one, but nice full vocals.
Intsusadi – This is a good one! I don’t know what’s doing the main percussive line here–a steel drum? It’s a new sound for me in my La Bottine experience, regardless, and it makes this one the most interesting instrumental on the album for me.
Reel Calgary – While the previous was perhaps the most interesting instrumental, this one is nonetheless very appealing to me. Nice fiddle and footwork. As with track 3, the horns are pretty subdued–more than I might perhaps like. But on the other hand, they’re coming in at a good balance with the rest of the instruments and the overall somewhat wistful flavor of the piece.
On Va Barrer Les Portes – The other La Bottine singer I don’t know yet, but this is the same gent who sings lead on track 1. This song’s primarily vocal call-and-response, with just piano and footwork on the verses, until the horns and fiddle come in on a nice jaunty bridge. That bridge? That’s what I listen to La Bottine Souriante FOR.
Pèle-Mèle – One more Éric song! Good big fat bridge from the horns and keyboard.
Le Baillard – The album’s final track is one more instrumental, and a good long, strong one as well, layering in all the various instruments and letting them build power at a good pace. By the time you’re three minutes into the track, oh yeah, there’s excellent muscle to the horns here. And about halfway through, an excellent stomping bit! This one reassures me that while I may miss the powerhouse of awesome that was vintage La Bottine, modern La Bottine can bring it too.
Long story short, if you’re into Quebecois music or think you might want to be, yes, you should buy this album. I was delighted to see it go live on iTunes AND on the Amazon MP3 downloads store for purchase, which means it’s readily available to US customers. Their record label also has it available for purchase right over here!

Quebecois band recommendations: La Bottine Souriante!

Last but OH MY definitely not least in the slightest, we come to La Bottine Souriante!
Of all the groups I’ve been getting into, La Bottine is the oldest, and as near as I can tell they are pretty much the modern Quebecois trad version of the Chieftains. They’ve been around since the late 70’s, and became famous for taking the folk melodies and slapping a lively horn section on top of them. That, combined with the showmanship of lead singer Yves Lambert, made La Bottine a phenomenal live band during their earlier heyday. As I’ve posted before, I had the fortune of seeing them perform at the same Celtic concert where I first saw Great Big Sea, and I’m here to tell you–they WERE awesome. Monsieur Lambert had an amazing rich, round voice that hit my ears like 900-calorie cheesecake, and their horn section was laying down a wall of sound that steamrollered the audience.
So yeah, when it comes to modern Quebecois trad, La Bottine are the giants on whose shoulders everyone else after them are standing. If you want to get into this music at all, you cannot do wrong at all if you start with La Bottine. Even their name, “The Smiling Boots”, sums up why I love this music so much–not only because of the podorythmie, but because of the lively, upbeat energy. Well, that, and the aforementioned wall of sound from the horns, which do yea and verily ROCK.
Be aware that since La Bottine has been around for so long, they have gone through a huge number of membership changes over the years. This will therefore impact what level of awesome you get from one of their albums, depending on where in the discography you’re looking. I have only five of their many albums myself, and all of them are in the earlier stretch of La Bottine’s long range of activity: Chic & Swell, En Spectacle, Jusqu’aux P’tites Heures, Les Épousailles, and Rock & Reel (which has the distinction of being the only La Bottine album released in the States). Of these albums, I would most recommend either Rock & Reel or En Spectacle, which is a live album–either of these will give you an excellent introduction to the band’s canonical sound.
A big difficulty here though is that La Bottine’s albums are hard to find. Since Rock & Reel is the only one that was ever released in the States, and since a lot of the places that historically have sold music have been losing out to online distribution sources, even that one will be hard to find outside Canada. And very few La Bottine tracks, sadly, are available electronically! The US iTunes store, for example, has only a small number of La Bottine tracks, and all of them are single tracks on compilation albums. None of them are on the band’s own works.
The one electronic recommendation I can make is that La Bottine appears on the Chieftains collaboration Fire in the Kitchen. Great Big Sea fans will know this album well, since it’s got a GBS track on it, a take of “Lukey”. However, the La Bottine track on it, “Le Lys Vert” is very strong. This album IS on iTunes, and you should get it if you can–not only because of GBS and La Bottine being on it, but also because it’s a great overview of Canadian folk.
If though you want to find their albums, has them all (I think all, anyway) here. represents over here., here (and they DO have La Bottine available as MP3 downloads, but again–only for Canadian customers).
YouTube-wise, there are a LOT of La Bottine vids of various quality, and most of them appear to be either older songs with static images, or else live performances involving the current-day members. Of these:
This one is the studio version of “Le ziguezon zinzon”, which goes clear back to the early album Chic & Swell, which is early enough that André Marchand–now over in the Charbonniers–is still in the band! And I think this may in fact be M. Marchand singing lead on this track; I’m not quite sure.
From Rock & Reel, I give you YoYo Verret, which is arguably one of the very first La Bottine ditties I ever fell in love with. The vid is static images only, and includes several of the modern lineup of members–so keep in mind that this is actually an older La Bottine song. I’m pretty sure that Michel Bordeleau, the other former La Bottine member now in the Charbonniers, has the lead here. And listen for the shiver-inducing deep harmony at the very end of the vocal section!
Off of En spectacle, here is “La Grand’ Côte”, one of the best tracks in the performance. There’s a stunning footwork solo towards the end–where the feet are flying fast enough that it sounds like machine-gun fire!
By contrast, if you search for “la bottine souriante 2011” on YouTube, you should be able to find several videos of the current lineup of the group. This one unfortunately has clipping issues on the sound, but you CAN see Éric Beaudry over on the side making with the footwork with a guitar in his lap, and the guys with the horns kick in fairly quickly. Of note as well is the dancer on the stage, Sandy Silva, whose primary function in the group does in fact appear to be dancing. This one is notable because I recognize what they’re playing–it’s “Landslide Village Medley”, a.k.a. “Medley des Éboulements” from Rock & Reel! And, this one is only a partial, but again there’s M. Beaudry there on the side, and Sandy Silva dancing all over the stage.
La Bottine remains an active band, although that’s a bit hard to glean from their website–the YouTube search is a much better indicator. AND! AND! I am seeing rumblings on their Facebook page that they do have a new album on the way. So I’d recommend keeping an eye on their site, and if you are Facebook-inclined, they have a group right over here as well as an actual fan page!
It’s greatly comforting to see that the band’s current lineup is continuing its long and proud tradition, and here’s hoping that the new album will enjoy some electronic release!

Too much awesome for one band alone

All this starts, as many things musical do for me, with Great Big Sea! As I’ve mentioned, the first time I saw GBS perform, La Bottine Souriante was part of that show. At the time they were nine members strong, and I was almost as blown away by them as I was by GBS.
Also from GBS, I get to La Volée d’Castors. I found them thanks to a thread along the theme of “if you like Great Big Sea, you’ll also like ” on the OKP, though it took me some time to actually do anything about it–i.e., to find their music, see if I liked it, and actually buy it! I’m just sorry I didn’t find them sooner. :D
From LVC I get to Le Vent du Nord, because I found Le Vent buying LVC albums on iTunes. LVN popped up in the list of ‘people who bought this also bought’ albums. It turns out also that Réjean Brunet, current member of Le Vent, also used to be in LVC!
Les Charbonniers de l’Enfer I also discovered on iTunes when I started buying LVC and LVN albums. Again, it took me a bit to actually decide to buy their stuff–but I decided this was clearly Important when I read their web page and discovered a) they’re an a cappella group, and b) two of their members are former La Bottine Souriante guys! One of them in particular, Michel Bordeleau, was in La Bottine when I saw them perform in 2000.
De Temps Antan and Galant, Tu Perds Ton Temps are my most recent acquisitions, thanks to M Kenney, who’s dropped me several comments on the topic! De Temps Antan are connected both to La Bottine Souriante AND to Le Vent du Nord, since all three guys in De Temps are either current or former La Bottine members–and Éric Beaudry is of course the brother of Simon, over in Le Vent.
The Beaudry boys are connected back to the Charbonniers, since André Marchand, current Charbonniers member, produced their album Le sort des amoureux for them.
The Galant girls are also connected to LVN, since M Kenney informs me that they, Le Vent, and the Charbonniers have all performed together, doing a song called “Diable et le Fermier”, written by Nicolas Boulerice of Le Vent. Here it is, on YouTube:
Long story short, clearly all the best bands in Quebec are tied together in one great big web of AWESOME. I love that! And I’ll be amused to see how many more ways I can find to tie all these groups together, and if there are other groups in the web as well!

Motherlode of Quebecois musical awesome!

This being another post actually written while I was on hiatus, but I wanted to get it down while it was fresh in my mind!
So as y’all know I have become very fond of Quebecois music, and I have no fewer than four bands I’m following: La Bottine Souriante, Le Vent du Nord, La Volee d’Castors, and Les Charbonniers de L’enfer. This last group are the ones who are entirely a capella, specializing in the mouth reels and podorythmie that I love so much about music from Quebec, and they ALSO have two guys who used to be in La Bottine Souriante, so a couple of their voices sound very familiar to me.
I’ve snagged their one live album off of iTunes, and I’m tellin’ ya, people, they are way better live than I expected after listening to their first two albums I’d bought! They are so much more vigorous in live performance that I was entirely blown away by several of the tracks. They have a couple on this album where they’re roaring out the lyrics–or in the case of one track, tearing through the mouth reels at unbelievable speed. And, AND, if my poking around on Google and on their website is any indication, they have two guys doing the podorythmie, not just one.
The album is called En personne, and for those of you with iTunes accounts, I highly recommend checking it out. For those of you not iTunes-inclined, I was also able to find this site here which appears to be for a chain store in Quebec. They can’t sell MP3 downloads to customers outside Canada due to copyright restrictions, but they DO have listenable samples–and they will ship CDs to US customers. Their page for the album in question is here–AND there’s ALSO a DVD!
Check out the samples for tracks 4, 10, 13, and 16 in particular, wherever you check it out. iTunes has longer samples than the Archambault site does, enough to give you a feel for how LCE sound live, though the really good bits of tracks 4 and 10 are towards the end so you may not get those in the samples. Track 16 is ALL mouth reels though and goddamn, it is awesome. XD
I am totally ordering this thing on my next paycheck. I have got to see the video that goes with this concert, especially if they have two guys on the footwork.
AND AND AND they also have a boatload of La Bottine Souriante albums I’m going to be ordering–five of ’em I’m missing, and I’m particularly interested in the more recent ones since LBS have had a significant shift in members over the last few years, so now they sound rather different than they did when I saw them perform way back in 2000 along with GBS at Chateau Ste. Michelle. What particularly amuses me, now that I’m actively fangirling Le Vent du Nord, is that the lovely Monsieur Simon Beaudry has a brother who’s in La Bottine Souriante now! ;D
And speaking of Le Vent du Nord, that site also has the one remaining LVN album I don’t have yet–a recording of a live concert they did along with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, which was apparently not widely released, since it’s not on iTunes along with the rest of LVN’s albums. I am totally ordering this, too.
I really need a proper icon for Quebecois music now! Stompyfeet, that’d be the ticket. :D