Les Charbonniers de l'Enfer / La Nef

La Traverse Miraculeuse

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This wonderful disc is a collaboration between Les Charbonniers de l'Enfer (an a cappella ensemble that specializes in the traditional songs of Quebec and Acadia) and La Nef (a trio that specializes in both early and contemporary classical music). The title refers to the crossing of waters both great and small by centuries of sailors; the program combines traditional seafaring songs with accounts of the Seven Years' War and its attendant sea battles. Many of the songs are in the unison, call-and-response style that will be familiar to fans of traditional Quebecois music, and sound very much like early recordings by La Bottine Souriante accompanied by a string section. Elsewhere, such as on the lovely Le 10 Avril, the sound is more purely classical and evokes dance music of the Renaissance. Highlights on this very fine program include a gorgeous waltz titled Valse d'Émile Benoît, the lilting Le navire de Bayonne, and the dark and mournful Le combat de la Danaé. On Complainte du coureur des bois some relatively weak vocals are unfortunately exposed by an unusually spare arrangement, but for the most part this album is a wild and fascinating trip down an unusual alley of musical history.

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