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Written in Folk Roots issue 103/104, 1992

Ad Vielle Que Pourra - Come What May

Green Linnet GLCD 1112 (1991)

En Concert

Shamrock 1014-2 (1991)

If sometimes English-speaking Canadian cultural identity is hard to discern from this side of the Atlantic, that of French-speaking Canadians isn't. The sound (if not the expressed rationale - see below) of the music on the second album by Ad Vielle Que Pourra (Come What May) is widely varied but virtually all definitely European French; not an approximate, pretentious attempt to go back in time but a natural thing, lively and witty. There are no traditional tunes here; all are made by either hurdy-gurdy, diatonic accordion, electric guitarist and singer Daniel Thonon or violin, mandola, mandocello and bouzouki player and singer Alain Leroux, and are tightly constructed. The majority have Breton roots and form, but there's also a polka in Swiss style and a set of bourrées in Auvergne style, amongst others. Two of the songs are settings of 18th-century texts, another of one from the 15th century; I'm not sure about the point of using these rather than saying things anew (unless the old lyrics deal accessibly with eternal verities), and tend to a suspicion of groups who, as the booklet notes say, "make history come alive", but my French isn't good enough to understand a song lyric as it goes by, let alone evaluate it; the words sound pretty comfortable with their tunes. The band is completed by Gilles Plante (bombarde, recorder, taragot, vocal), Jean-Louis Cros (guitar, bass guitar) and Luc Thonon (Flemish pipes, recorder), with guest mandolinist Mario Cote.

      The live album to mark the 18th birthday of well-known Breton band Bleizi Ruz, recorded in Brest, Brittany opens with a piece of music, Voyajet m'eus e bro vreiz, largely inspired by cajun accordionist Clifton Chenier. Just goes to show that the trade works both ways, and there's no such thing as purity in music; it's the impurities that give the gemstone its colour. Later tracks include a circassian circle - a dance style only recently imported but proving popular at festou-noz - a Rumanian joc, a Bulgarian horo, and a waltz learnt from US band Metamora. Such variety could indicate a patchy and uncomprehending eclecticism, but a band of able players working in an aural tradition and which travels as much as does Bleizi Ruz, sessioning with other musicians, would be odd if it didn't pick up influences and tunes, and absorb them when it's ready. All these tunes have received a hefty dollop of what the booklet notes describe as "Bleizi Ruz Sauce". Lineup is Eric Liorzou (guitars, mandola, bombarde, vocals), Loic Leborgne (accordion, midi accordion, vocals), Ben Creach (bass guitar), Bernard Quillien (bombardes, whistles, bagpipe, vocals), with guest Patrik Ewen singing on two tracks. Incidentally, the album was mixed at Padstow in that other Brythonic outpost, Cornwall.

© 1992 Andrew Cronshaw

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