René Lussier

Le Prix du Bonheur

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Now that he had established a good relationship with the label La Tribu, René Lussier tried something new. Well, some local followers knew that the man had been nurturing a special interest in traditional Hawaiian music for a while, and he has been known to push a naïve or ironic song in any given concert ever since the days of Les Granules -- but most fans, and especially his international followers, won't be expecting an album of rewritten Hawaiian songs. And that's just what Le Prix du Bonheur is. It's wonderfully simple, heartfelt, and funny, although the latter dimension will be lost on non-French speakers. The whole album is a collaborative project between Lussier (who plays all instruments, except for violin, drums, and double bass on a few tracks) and longtime life partner Paule Marier, a children's program writer who penned new lyrics for Lussier's revisited Hawaiian classics. Fans of Lussier's experimental improv past will have very little to chew on, although each song has its quirks, including unlikely solos. Those who appreciate his avant-trad leanings will find plenty to like here, from manic foot-tapping to some serious fiddling, courtesy of Liette Remond, already featured on Grand Vent, Lussier's previous album. That said, Le Prix du Bonheur is nothing like Grand Vent or Tombola Rasa -- and even less like anything the man has released on Ambiances Magnétiques during the '80s and '90s. He turns out to have an acceptably nice voice (something that was far from obvious in his previous self-mocking attempts at singing), and his arrangements of songs like "Kaala," "Hano Hano Hawaii," and "Sweet Lei Lehua" produce a unique blend of Hawaiian/Quebec neo-trad. Longtime fans will recognize "Ça Paraît Pas Mais Ça Paraît," a non-Hawaiian song he used to play with Pierre Tanguay in the duo La Vie Qui Bât, while "Tôt ou Tard" -- another rare original and the rock single of the album -- has been in his set list for a few years. The album runs out of steam toward the end (the melodies of "Me Voilà Sauvé," "Le Doorman," and "Poisson Volant" are weaker), but it contains enough shining moments to make the experiment conclusive. Approach with caution if you don't understand French, but if you are fond of Quebec alternative singer/songwriters like Richard Desjardins and Urbain Desbois, this straightforward record won't disappoint you.

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