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La traverse miraculeuse
Reel à bouche (Turlutte acadienne) [2:46]; Dans Paris y'a t'une brune (In Paris) [2:51]; Les Haubans (The Stays) [2:47]; Valse d'Émile Benoît [2:34]; Le 10 d'avril [5:53]; La traverse miraculeuse (The Miraculous Crossing) [3:26]; Complaints du coureur des bois (The Lament of the Trapper) [4:04]; Le navire de Bayonne (The Ship from Bayonne) [6:00]; Le combat de La Danaé (The Battle of Quebec)* [8:08]; Turlutte et reel [4:35]; Dans les prisons de Nantes  (In the Prisons of Nantes) [5:32]; Petite Galiote (The Ketch) [3:25]

Les Charbonniers de l'Enfer (Michel Bordeleau, Michel Faubert, André Marchand, Jean-Claude Mirandette, Normand Miron); La Nef, Meredith Hall (soprano)*
rec. Montreal Baroque Festival, 2008. DDD
Experience Classicsonline

This makes for a tangy and rough-textured folk-orientated collection. If you know the work of ‘La Bottine Souriante’ and that wing of the Celtic Revival then you know what to expect. The music reflects in some measure the Gaelic ‘diaspora’ as well as the traditional songs of Quebec and Acadia – much of it in French. It’s a very Gallic collection – with reedy and nasal voices and roughened textures, fiddle-goaded tempos, streaming with rough life. This is very much pungent gunny not fragrant silk. The music rings the changes on mouth music (puirt-a-beul), tara-diddle-dumm-tidum work-songs and foot-tapping rhythmic songs all punchily emphasised by the voices and coloured by strings and tambourine. Things relent for the sentimental Valse d'Emil Benoit with its fiddle evocative of the Ashokan Lament – all lilting slurs and rippling life. In Le Dix d'Avril the use of the drone under the singing is roughened again yet sweet. The drum strongly etches the tragedy. This piece is deeply attractive and radiates a melancholy nostalgia. La Traverse Miraculeuse is a simple unadorned song with the smoother voice of Michel Faubert and the lute of Sylvain Bergeron. It differs from the other tracks all of which use the larger ensemble drawn from Le Nef. Le Navire de Bayonne sports the wonderfully resinous and nasal cornemuse. Hearing this now I am reminded that it’s time we had a recording of Aloys Fleischmann's Clare's Dragoons which includes parts for the Irish pipes, singer and full orchestra. The wonderfully strong voice of Michel Bordeleau is stirringly conveyed. The Battle of Quebec is sung by Meredith Hall whose voice is a legend and rightly so. She sings the English lines from the mixed English-French verses. Strangely its lighter character leaves it seeming less impressive in this company. Back to the puirt-a-beul of the Turlutte et Reel with its Riverdance terpsichore which is here full of flying fiddle sparks. Dans les prisons de Nantes. Each of the male voices in les Charbonniers has a strongly different character and each has a song or more than one. The one for this one sounds dignified and serious; he is Normand Miron. Lastly comes the Petite Galiotte (Little Ketch). La Nef provide a tangy instrumental accompaniment throughout: lute, various guitars, fiddles, percussion, flute, chalumeau, crumhorn, bagpipes (cornemuse), cello, double-bass, gamba and cittern.

This characterful collection should please enthusiasts of the hairy folk traditions that radiated out from France and Ireland.

Rob Barnett


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