Various Artists

Putumayo Presents: Acoustic France

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Putumayo found itself with a hit when it released an album of French café music, so the next logical step is of course to add an entry to their acoustic line with a French entry. French café music itself is heavy with acoustic formats, chanson and gypsy jazz high in its formats. Here those are thoroughly represented, along with some more modern elements in the singer/songwriter vein. The album opens with a fairly Brazilian piece courtesy of Les Escrocs, fitting sociopolitical outrage into a relaxed acoustic format surprisingly well. Thomas Dutronc stutters out a nice bit of gypsy jazz, keeping accompaniment on guitar himself. Actress Sandrine Kiberlain contributes a piece of striking pop, and New Brunswick native Pascal Lejeune creates a bit of classic French café culture that could just as easily have come from Brassens or Gainsbourg. J.P. Nataf invokes elements of the Beatles in a more folk-infused ballad, Parisian (by way of Le Cote d'Ivoire and Maryland) Constance Amiot provides what may be the highlight of the album in a heartfelt but fairly complex piece of contemporary singer/songwriter goodness, and the short-lived group Gordon Sanchez contributes a worthwhile piece. Carla Bruni adds in a breathy, seductive, chanson ballad pre-Sarkozy (and indeed dedicated to a previous lover) that could almost have come from a Francophone Jewel in its vocal delivery. The delivery of Rose is fairly forgettable amongst the rest of the album, especially given the impassioned delivery of Gérard Pitiot in what would seem to be a slightly modernized chanson. After another romp in the realm of gypsy jazz courtesy of Romane, this time with a heavier Spanish influence, the album ends on the decidedly multicultural Rupa & the April Fishes and a milonga in French that doesn't quite fit anywhere in the more restrained French music with its Argentinean pathos, but does end the album on a strong note. The French language lends itself well to acoustic music, and the selection of artists present on this compilation capitalizes on that marriage of aesthetics perfectly. An excellent primer in both contemporary French music and in more historic stylings, by way of their modern interpreters and standard bearers.

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