A popular singer/songwriter in France for the past three decades, Francis Cabrel is also a bit of a pastoral recluse, preferring to spend his days with his family in his hometown village of Astaffort, rather than in the media spotlight of Paris. Unsurprisingly, his studio output has become less than prolific in recent years, with intervals of four or five years between records. His artistry and popularity, however, have not suffered in the least, as evident in 2008's Des Roses et Des Orties. The new songs offer few surprises for either Cabrel fans or detractors, other than a keener emphasis on social issues. This is also reflective of a general trend in France, where events such as the 2007 election of Sarkozy, or the heated debate on immigration, brought politics back to the forefront, both in the media and in everyday life. Cabrel, a father of two who recently adopted a Vietnamese child, is particularly sensitive to the plight of immigrant children, as well as to the ever widening gap between the richer and poorer regions of the planet, the subject of "African Tour," "Mademoiselle L'aventure," and "Les Cardinaux en Costume," among others. Furthermore, Cabrel criticizes institutionalized religion in "La Chêne Liège" and artists and songwriters like himself ("Des Gens Formidables") for feigning sympathy for the poor but doing very little about it. Most of the songs set Cabrel's soft spoken voice against his acoustic guitar, reinforced by bluesy electric guitar pickings, or stately piano accompaniment. A few tracks add a discreet ethnic flavor for variety, such as the tasteful flamenco guitar in the opening "La Robe et L'échelle." The inclusion of three covers, by Bob Dylan, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and J.J. Cale, translated and sung in French by Cabrel, seems less fortunate as these songs feel somewhat out of place in the more somber context of this record. A typically well-crafted Cabrel album, Des Roses et Des Orties reached the top of the French charts upon its release.
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AllMusic Review by Mariano Prunes