La Bottine Souriante

Chic & Swell

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There are few records that can be pinpointed as important not merely for the career of a band, but for an entire genre of music. Chic n' Swell is one such album, the one that served not merely as the sign that a group of talented performers were on the scene, but that also heralded a resurgence of a dying form of Quebécois folk music. La Bottine Souriante had released two previous albums, both upbeat presentations of old songs, but Chic n' Swell had an excitement, accessibility, and purposefulness that was brand new. The group that earned the name "the Chieftains of French-Canadian music" plays with the virtuosity and inventiveness of its Irish cousins here. The basis of the music is typically French Canadian, the instrumental backing is mostly traditional, but this is the first time this music was recorded with the quality of a modern studio and the vigor of a barn dance. Highlights include the brisk, bawdy old folk song "La Ziguezon," presented here with increasingly complex vocal harmonies on each chorus. By the end of the song, the band is singing a rich, complex chord that is both beautiful and urgent. Compare this with "La Rossignol Sauvage," in which lead singer Yves Lambert delivers both a deeply soulful vocal performance and a splendid harmonica solo. There are instrumental gems throughout this album, with sprightly Celtic reels and jigs given a distinctive Quebécois feel thanks to the button accordion, French vocals, and foot-stomping percussion. La Bottine Souriante toured widely outside Canada after this album was released, and this album sold steadily at the band's concerts and awakened interest in the whole genre. Though the group would later incorporate more modern and diverse cultural influences and go on to greater popularity, this is the album any fan must have, the one on which La Bottine Souriante introduced French-Canadian music to the world.

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