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.
Since was asking, and since she’s the person who pointed me at Mes Aieux to begin with, here’s my overall reaction to the album I bought in Vancouver, En Famille!
This is a bit of a switch from the rest of the Quebecois music I’ve been listening to. From what I’m learning, this group’s more about modern lyrics than trad ones, although their style is still trad-influenced. Wikipedia describes them as “neo-trad”, a specifically Quebecois sub-genre, and that’s a term I really rather like as it seems to encompass not only the Quebecois music I like to listen to, but also the Newfoundland music. It nicely captures the sense of music that’s a fusion of both traditional and rock.
Now, given that we are dealing with French lyrics here, I’m still at a disadvantage–and given that Mes Aieux’s site doesn’t have lyrics posted on it, I’m going to have to doublecheck the liner notes of this album to see if they’re included so I can try to translate them. I’m given to understand that a lot of Mes Aieux’s lyrical topics are focused on life in Montreal, and out of general interest in that, I’d like to know what they’re actually saying! For now, though, I’ll have to focus just on the overall flavor and style of the songs.
I very much like the first track, “Dégénération”, the track that pointed me at on YouTube. The vocals and instrumentation are both very strong, and I also like the reel they kick into at the end! Fortunately also, this is one song someone’s already translated online, and yeah, this is a good example of Mes Aieux’s whole idea of modern themes, trad style of performance. Especially the part in the last verse about turning off the TV and going outside. ;)
The rest of the vocals all over the album have the distinction of including both female and male voices, which by itself gives Mes Aieux some distinction in my Quebecois collection of music so far. They’re also a bit larger a group, with seven strong, so they’ve got more vocalists to play with, and I do quite like some of the tricks they’re doing with layering lead and backup voices.
They do also have more instruments to play with. I hear horns, electric guitar, and a drum kit in there, as well as fiddle and flute, so we’ve got a modern and trad blend of instrumentation, too. Stylistically they’re definitely more rock than trad, though this is not a bad thing. I definitely like the horn section rocking out on track 6, though all the electric guitar and drum kit work is taking me a bit aback, since my ear is geared these days to acoustic instruments!
As I’ve said, I have no French to speak of (aside from a tiny assortment of nouns and pronouns and the occasional verb and preposition), so I have no earthly idea about any local differences in Quebecois pronunciation–but that said, the primary singers in Mes Aieux seem to be pronouncing things more crisply and distinctly than most of the singers on my various other albums. I don’t know if this is a question of individual singing style, or a question of dialect; either way, it’s another interesting data point for me, and one which I hope to learn more about if I get an opportunity to properly learn Quebecois French.
I’m not a hundred percent sure about this, but I’m hearing only minimal podorythmie on this album, if there’s any at all; most of the percussion I’m hearing is more standard rock percussion. There are, however, occasional bits of tracks where I’m hearing something that might be footwork. If that’s what it is, it’s much less emphasized than it is in the more trad-oriented groups. This doesn’t surprise me much, given that Mes Aieux is more rock. It’s a bit weird, though, not hearing the footwork in conjunction with lyrics sung in French!
Some more specific track reactions:
I’m really liking the vocals on track 7, “La Grande Déclaration”. It’s a quieter track, and although I have not an earthly what they’re singing about, the vocals are really nice, and there’s some good fiddle and guitar (both electric and acoustic, it sounds like) and piano here.
Interesting growly-talky delivery of lyrics on the verses on track 8, too; it’s almost rap-like, but not quite there, since it’s still a bit too melodic for that. It’s good, though, and I’m respecting whichever singer in the group this is. (Whoa wait, there are English lyrics in this song! Surprise!)
I totally need the lyrics to track 9 on here, which I am given to understand is about poutine. HA!
Track 10 is pretty cool, with fun delivery of lyrics and some good fiddle and horn. And ooh, is that a harmonica in there?
Liking track 11, too–in no small part because the band’s female vocalist is getting some lead time here. Awesome.
All in all, the album’s not necessarily grabbing me right out of the gate like the more trad bands do. But that said, I’m definitely enjoying it and will probably get more of Mes Aieux’s music, probably their most recent album. Thanks, , for recommending them!
So a kind Internet passerby (thank you, M Kenney!) has just alerted me to two pieces of Critical Information:
One, that Éric Beaudry, the brother of Simon and current member of La Bottine Souriante, is also in a band called De Temps Antan which requires checking out.
Two, and much more importantly, that Éric and Simon HAVE AN ALBUM. I have just ordered the hell out of this, since CD Baby has it, and this just trumped my planned orders of further LCE and LBS albums. This album should go very, very well with the ones by Nicolas Boulerice and Oliviers Demers that I just ordered, too!
(How do you say “gimme gimme gimme gimme” or “grabbyhands” in French? Or perhaps “CD Baby ROCKS?”)
Exploration of the Beaudrys’ site clues me in as well that OMG, Éric plays the cittern! He just got significantly more interesting, because citterns? Almost as awesome as bouzoukis! \0/
Furthermore, has informed me that I should check out a group called Mes Aïeux as well. So this week’s clearly shaping up to be the week everybody on the Internet throws me their Quebecois trad recommendations! Keep ’em coming, you guys, I’m loving this!